You can’t take any other classes in the Aero/Astro department until you’ve completed both semesters of Unified Engineering- a series designed to encompass all the fundamentals of engineering while exploring questions such as ‘Just how excited are you, really, about airplanes??’ and ‘Are you sure?’
(Read more about the trials of the course in the intro to my entry #2 about bottle rockets. The pains, and gains, of being a student at MIT.)
A couple weeks before the end of term, we abandoned an entire thermodynamics lecture to just talking about how cool airplanes are in which the student body revealed most obstinately, “Yes, indeed, we are psyched about airplanes.” I felt really glad to be a part of Course 16 on that day.
You see, to be quite honest, Course 16 is not designed like many other majors necessarily with exploration in mind. As one of my hallmates wisely pointed out to me, while many students develop a tangible interest in math or chemistry through positive experiences with intro classes in high school or early college, far fewer students decide to ‘take a shot’ at Aerospace because they’d done well in their 10th grade Jet Propulsion class and found the material interesting. Instead, course 16 students are propelled by a sort of fanaticism much in the way that marathon runners are motivated by the finish line. It’s about making it through, and meanwhile having each other to lean on.
Many people have asked me if Unified is hard. And I suppose I have to extend my analogy to respond that Unified is hard in the same way that running a marathon is hard. The material is designed with very few expectations in mind but that you follow along, that you come to class, that you do what is asked. The grades are not curved so you dont necessarily have to be smarter, faster, stronger than your classmates, however smart, fast, and strong they are. Anyone who puts in the effort required (which is quite a bit) has an equal shot at success. It’s not so much a matter of skill, most anyone can figure out how to put one foot in front of the other, but one of endurance, that you do it over and over again for 26 miles and it’s pretty damn gratifying when you make it. Looking at the number of companies vying for course 16 grads at career fairs, I’d say you’re pretty set if you can graduate with an Aero/Astro degree from MIT :)
(answers passed out immediately following a thermodynamics test)
Me? I’m not really that excited about airplanes. I think I’m more excited about the applied physics that is in engineering and the huge role fluid dynamics plays in Aeronautics. Plus, I’m sick of running, I’m not in such a hurry. I don’t even know where it is I’m going. So after some soul searching I’m proud to report that my full attentions will turn to a course 8 degree. Hey hey don’t get me wrong. I’m still your source for all things Course 16. My intentions are grad school in Aeronautics/Astronautics and hopefully a couple of internships in that direction.
(in case you forgot about the turbine)
I took these on my cellphone when flying from Shanghai to Chongqing a couple weeks ago.
Okay, maybe I’m a little excited about airplanes.