classes started last wednesday!
here’s a cross-section of my coursework this semester, as represented by some notes from each class:
16.06 – Principles of Automatic Control
this is a required class for the course 16 (aero/astro) major at MIT. we spent the first day of class watching videos of very fancy automatic control systems at work, like variable-pitch quadcopters flipping upside-down (developed in the MIT Aerospace Controls Lab), or vertical-landing rockets (hey spacex, hey blue origin). control theory is about making messy systems behave the way you want them to behave; this can be as simple as making sure a toilet doesn’t overflow or as complex as making a self-driving car follow a set path.
6.111 – Introductory Digital Systems Laboratory
this is a project-based class about teeny tiny computers.
16.82 – Flight Vehicle Engineering
16.82 is one of the capstone options for the aeroastro degree. in true mens-et-manus spirit, students design, prototype, and test an actual flight vehicle for an external contractor. past years of 16.82 and 16.83 (the analogous class in space systems engineering) have led to real systems for the international space station or the air force. this year, we’re working on a medium-altitude long-endurance plane that can fly for five days at a time.
21A.819 – Qualitative Research Methods
this is a graduate class in MIT’s incredible anthropology department, focused on methodology for qualitative social science and ethnographic fieldwork. mary gray defines ethnography as “not trying to understand the world, but trying to understand how other people make sense of the world.” growing up in a very math/science-focused community, i internalized the belief that the STEM fields were intellectually superior and more rigorous to the so-called “soft sciences.” MIT’s school of humanities has gratefully stripped me of such a prejudice. people are complicated and interesting and difficult to study if you limit yourself to mathematical models and quantitative data, and i’m looking forward to getting better at qualitative research methodologies (ever heard of semi-structured interviewing? what about participant observation?)
here is a picture of the cat lounging in my doorway. happy start-of-semester!