Top Five MIT Hacks

In Cambridge, 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 best known for their brilliant minds and brilliant inventions (could you imagine a life without email, the internet or even condensed soup?). MIT students are also known for their brilliant sense of humor. That includes a long history of epic pranks.

As April Fool's Day approaches, we thought it was only appropriate to highlight some of the most infamous and impressive hacks to hit Cambridge. MIT’s hacks will not only impress you, but will also leave you wondering how they were ever pulled off:

1.   The Alchemist Goes Bad

From the wacky Stata Center to the infamous MIT Dome, MIT’s campus boasts several iconic buildings and sculptures; each draws thousands of tourists every year. These iconic spots are also the perfect blank slate for a cleverly planned prank.

MIT’s Alchemist sculpture was a gift to the university on their 150th anniversary. Artist Jaume Plensa designed the statue with numeric symbols to honor the advances MIT students have made to math and science.

The day after the “Breaking Bad” finale, the Alchemist received quite the make-over from MIT students. The students-turned-pranksters transformed the otherwise white numbered man into Heisenberg, the main character’s alter-ego, complete with his signature goatee, dark sunglasses and hat.

2.   Giant Game of Tetris

In general, April Fool’s pranks have very little (if any) planning. According to MIT’s school newspaper, this next prank took nearly five years to plan, however. 

The Green Building, which is located on MIT’s campus, is known as the tallest building in Cambridge. It instantly received new heights of fame when the side of its exterior was transformed into a giant, full color game of Tetris. The giant game of Tetris was also completely playable! Spectators were even encouraged to use a lifesize controller to play. Impressive right?

3. John Harvard Gets a Makeover

Even Harvard’s campus isn’t exempt from MIT student’s hacks. In 2007, MIT students crept into Harvard Yard and transformed the John Harvard’s statue into a character from the popular video game, Halo 3. The statue was seen wearing the video game character’s signature helmet and prop gun... in all bronze.

4. R2D2 Comes to Cambridge

Like the Alchemist, MIT’s iconic Great Dome is no stranger to hacks. The Great Dome has become the victim of student’s imaginations for years.

One of the most infamous pranks on the Great Dome happened during the first day of spring finals in 1999. The Dome was turned into the likeness of the Star Wars character R2D2 (perfectly timed just days before the release of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace!). The-Dome-turned-Star-Wars-drone was made entirely out of large fabric panels, along with a spray painted tent to mimic the drone’s holographic projector.

The prank was so well received that the-Dome-turned-Star-Wars-drone enjoyed a full day in the spotlight before being taken down. Luckily, the considerate hackers left detailed instructions for disassembly for the “Hack Removal Team.”

5. Turning Things Upside Down

What better way to welcome newly admitted MIT students to their home away from home than to welcome them with a pretty impressive hack. New students and their parents were able to see a hack first-hand instead of hearing of past pranks from student tour guides.

The hack, affixed to MIT’s Weisner building on Ames Street, was a fully-furnished rec room any college student would envy. Onlookers could see the upside down room hanging above their heads complete with pool table, lamp, coffee table and chairs. The room even had hardwood floors and a fake cat taking a nap. Now that's attention to detail!

photo credits: cover1, 2, 3, 4, 5


Girls Day at the MIT Museum, photo courtesy of the MIT Museum

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