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IAP Diversions Help Students Unwind

By Kristen Landino

Independent Activities Period is a time to try something new, something different, and even a time to get one's hands dirty. Glassblowing, woodworking, and investment casting of silver are three classes during IAP which offer what is far from traditional MITfare.


Located in the basement of MIT's main building, the glassblowing workshop offers classes during IAP that teach students the art of shaping glass figurines, vases, and bowls from molten hot glass.

Taught by Professor of Mater-ials Science and Engineering Michael J. Cima, this class allows each student to make a small glass animal in their first week, a paperweight the second week, and a bowl or vase in the last week. Glassblowing meets for four hours each week, two hours of lecture and two hours spent practicing techniques in the lab.

"I always walked by the workshop in the basement on my way to classes and I thought they made some cool stuff," said Alan T. Asbeck '02, a student enrolled in the course. A popular course during IAP, glassblowing inevitably ends up heavily oversubscribed. Students suggest signing up early.

Investment Casting of Silver

The process of investment casting is over a thousand years old and involves creating figurines from molten metals such as gold, silver, and bronze.

Students create their own plaster molds from wax kits and then pour the liquid metal into these casts. The cast is then plunged into cold water, where the metal hardens.

Neil Jenkins G, a graduate student in Materials Science and Engineering, was very interested in metallurgy, so he decided to team up with his friend Benjamin M. Linder G, a graduate student in Mechanical Engineering, to offer the course. They use facilities provided by the Materials Science and Engineering Department to teach the course.

"We haven't been casting for a very long but both of us have extensive knowledge about the process," Jenkins said.

Investment casting allows students to spend approximately 10 hours total learning about the process and creating their figurines.

Each person makes about 4-6 casts, depending on individual interest, Jenkins said.

"I became interested in investment casting because I work in an archaeology lab at MIT, so I know the process is of significant historical value," said Katherine E. Jakielski, a research specialist in the Department of Archaeology who enrolled in the course.

The course proved to be extremely popular. Forty people signed up, although enrollment was limited to 10 students.


"My main goal is to allow the students to have fun and feel comfortable while learning how to safely operate a number of different important woodworking machines such as a jointer and a band saw," said Roy Talanian who teaches the course.

Students enrolled in the woodworking class over IAP learn how to build a small upholstered footstool through the use of a variety of different machines located in the Hobby Shop in the basement of Dupont Athletic Center.

"I took a shop class in junior high school, but we were not really allowed to use many woodworking machines. Ithought that I could learn a lot more about using a variety of different tools in this course," said Amy C. Lin '02.

Students in the class seemed to feel this course allowed them to learn skills they would be able to use in the future.

"It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I know I can safely operate the woodworking machines to create something useful," said Jennifer J. Yu '02.