Red Line on the Great Dome, photo courtesy of the Boston Globe

MIT Hacks: Part Three

How did hackers get an airplane on the Dome?

In Cambridge MA, the word “hack” has a very different meaning than you may expect. According to Cantabrigians, the word, ‘hack” does not simply imply a way to make something easier. Instead, it is a term used to describe an amusing prank. And no, we are not pranking you!

Students at MIT may be known for their brilliant minds, and brilliant inventions -- could you imagine a life without email, the internet, or even condensed soup? -- but they’re also known for their brilliant sense of humor. And that includes their long history of epic pranks. 

We simply can't get enough of MIT's hacks.  Here are five more hacks that will have you scratching your head and wondering, "How did they do that?"

1. Airplane on the Great Dome

MIT students sure do love hacks surrounding the Great Dome.  To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first controlled powered flight, the sneaky and brilliant students placed a replica of the Wright Brother’s first airplane on top of the Great Dome!

2. MBTA Red Line on the Great Dome

If you’ve ever visited MIT’s campus, you’ve probably gotten there by the MBTA’s Red Line.  In 2009, onlookers were shocked to see what appeared to be an MBTA Red Line car driving around the side of the Great Dome. Leave it up to MIT students to create a solar-powered replica of the famed Red Line line car.

Photo courtesy of the MIT Museum

3. MIT Hacks the Harvard vs. Yale Football Game

MIT has always enjoyed pranking Harvard University- even on one of the biggest days of the year. On November 20, 1982, MIT hacked one of the most exciting and practically sacred events in Cambridge - the Harvard vs. Yale football game, A.K.A. “The Game.”  The two teams have an intense rivalry that spans almost two-hundred years- making this day one both Harvard and Yale prepare for all year
Not to be left out of the Ivy League excitement, members of MIT’s fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon and MIT alums constructed a hack for “The Game.” 

After weeks of planning, memorizing security camera patterns and blueprints of Harvard Stadium, hackers snuck onto the football field and buried a giant black balloon under the 46-yard line.  During the middle of the game, right after Harvard scored a goal (woo!) the balloon emerged with “MIT” written across the front! The balloon grew in size and eventually, the balloon exploded leaving talcum powder all over the field. MIT’s mission was successful and one that will live on in infamy.

Image courtesy of the IHTFP Hack Gallery

4. Hackapult on the Lawn

Have you ever wondered how hackers get so many items on top of the Great Dome? A helicopter, perhaps? Giant ladder? Catapult? A group of students, found themselves imagining the same solutions and decided to build a catapult, typically referred to as the “Hackapult.”

This stunt arranged items previously used in past hacks that have ended up on top of the Dome, including a campus police car and a cow around the Dome, to make it appear that these items were just flung onto the building. After all, it is the only practical solution.

Photo courtesy of Donna Coveney via the IHTFP Hack Gallery

5. Disappearing President’s Office

On President Vest’s first day at MIT, he had a little trouble finding his office.  After searching for his office on a couple of different floors,  it seemed that his office simply disappeared.  Low and behold, a portable wooden-frame bulletin board was placed over the entryway concealing his office.  He wasn’t too upset with the hack, once he found a bottle of champagne waiting for him inside.


If you loved reading this Insider Post, you'll love our Top Five MIT Hacks and MIT Hacks: Part Two


Photo courtesy of Boston Calling Music Festival

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