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IAP Offerings Run the Gamut

By Vijay Shilpiekandula

The fall term is still fresh in your memory. Winter vacation didn’t add much to the euphoria of having survived another term. And you know that a month from now, you’ll be sucked back into the vortex of lectures, problem sets, and killer projects. What you desperately want is a breather from the stressful academic year -- Independent Activities Period has arrived just in time.

MIT’s unique four-week winter program offers a welcome break from the routine for faculty, staff and students of the Institute. IAP 2002 started in full swing on Monday, bringing hundreds of fun activities, unusual classes, and much-needed sleep.

Over 650 classes offered this year

“This is a nice opportunity for members of the MIT community to offer the best they can in terms of expertise and interest,” said Michael Bregren, Assistant Dean for Academic and Research Initiatives. Bregren and his team from the IAP office began working on IAP 2002 as early as April 2001 to make possible over 100 credit and 550 non-credit activities that now appear in the IAP Guide.

Activities being offered in IAP 2002 cover a broad spectrum of categories including Theater and Dance, Religion and Ethics, Hands-On Engineering, Athletics and Exercise, Visual Arts and Design, to name a few. “What appeals most is the variety offered,” said Saif A. Khan G.

Classes new this year include “A Bagel Testing Frenzy” by Evan Schultz, MIT Affiliate; the first ever “I Wanna Be a Cyborg” Hackfest by Richard W. DeVaul G et al; and “MIT 2020” by Joost P. Bonsen G.

IAP draws wide participation

Some IAP activities even draw students from outside the Institute. Ding Wu and Poh Sim Saw, both seniors at Wellesley College, said they were glad they attended “Introducing the Greek of Homer” offered by Craig W. Abernethy. IAP classes are open for registration by Wellesley students, subject to conditions stated in the IAP Guide. “We give full credit to the IAP people for their website,” Wu said. “It’s so well-maintained.”

Even faculty are drawn to teach in ways they can’t during the term. “I never thought I could get back to my favorite hobby”, said Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Vladimir Bulovic. Bulovic offers the class “Mime for the Imaginationally Intrigued” to keep himself in touch with mime, which he learned years ago.

When not busy with academic work, Bulovic gets around with Mimetype, the club for mime enthusiasts at MIT. Bulovic advised students to “explore your interests in this free period [IAP].”

An integral part of IAP is its wide range of games and contests. The Annual Mystery Hunt, Integration Bee, and 6.270 (Autonomous Robot Design Competition) are always eagerly awaited.

“I just don’t have time for anything other than 6.270,” said Pallavi Naresh ’04. Naresh and other participants of this time-intensive class will develop robots that will compete head-to-head against each other at the end of the month.

Charm school an IAP classic

At the end of all the activity of IAP comes a light-hearted day of manners and etiquette for MIT students -- Charm School. Courses offered in Charm School cover telling jokes, “Flirting 101,” restaurant etiquette, ballroom dance, dress code and many other social skills. The additional highlight this year is going to be “Negotiating Compensation Packages.”

“These skills are for all to learn,” said Linda D. Noel, program coordinator for Charm School 2002. The program was even featured on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” two years ago, making it perhaps the second most-famous IAP activity, behind only 6.270.