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MIT student blogger Natnael G. '15

Classes and Casting and Birthdays, oh my! by Natnael G. '15

What are "Things That Wake Me Up at 9am"?


Freshman year is generally filled with GIRs(General Institute Requirements) and while there isn’t much leeway in what classes are taken, it’s important to discuss what those random string of numbers we rattle off mean. Here’s a great explanation by a class of ’13 about how the GIRs work. ( and I’ll just go through and say which classes I’m currently taking.

8.01 – Classical Mechanics

Most known for it’s legendary professor Walter Lewin, 8.01 is the crux of freshman year. With a large majority of freshman taking it and it being notoriously difficult(relative to other freshman classes), 8.01 has a bonding affect over the student body. Taught in a peculiar fashion, TEAL is the name and 2 hour classes, table problems, and labs are the plays of the game. For me, this is one of two classes that I take mainstream. What this means is that I take it with the rest of the class of 2015 unlike the rest of my GIRs which are taken in ESG. A genuinely enjoyable class, Senior Lecturer Peter Dourmashkin puts forth extra time and effort to make it interesting. With an abundance of physical demonstrations and weekly labs, the concepts are emphasized outside of memorization of formulas. 8.01 forces you to really get what’s going on, a quick scouring of the formula sheet will get you nowhere. As someone who enrolled at MIT as a potential Course 8(Physics) and who has since changed from 6-2(EECS) to 6-3(CS) to 6-3 & 18(Mathematics), freshman classes have an interesting job in solidifying your major choices.

     18.02 – Multivariable Calculus

18.02 is easily one of my favorite classes. Taught by ESG’s own Gabrielle Stoy, ES18.02 has the important job of expanding the relatively new concept of Calculus to the three space world we live in. Covering everything from vectors to partial derivatives to Stokes’ Theorem, 18.02 is a great example of math that’ll apply to concurrent and future classes. Leaving 8.01 after learning about Moment of Inertias, I walked into 18.02 to find today was about doing double integral examples of  moment of inertia and finding centroids. While it was mathier than what we had done in Physics, the concepts were all there and applicable. Finding true enjoyment in math for math’s sake, I’ve found 18.02 has swayed me to the course 18 side of life. Still clinging to 6-3, time will tell which I choose or whether I double major or not.

     5.111- Principles of Chemical Science

Chemistry with Dr. Patti Christie is one of the primary reasons I joined ESG and 5.111 has yet to disappoint. As someone who came into MIT with a weak background in Chemistry, everyday is something new. Covering a wide array of subjects, from models of the atom to Reduction/Oxidation reactions(current), 5.111 is one of 3 classes that satisifies MIT’s Chemistry GIR. With 3.091(Solid State Chemistry) and 5.112 (Principles of Chemical Science) being the other options, 5.111 is what you would consider General Chemistry. 3.091 has an “emphasis on solid-state materials and their application to engineering systems.” While 5.112 is about the same class as 5.111 with the assumption the students have a few years of Chemistry experience. Covering more subjects and at a faster pace, 5.112 is comparable to 8.012/18.014/18.022/18.024 in that it’s mainly for folks who love challenging themselves or would like to major in those fields. At the end of the day, 5.111 in ESG takes the same tests, has the same problem sets and uses the same notes as the mainstream class. The only difference lies in location and the amount of personal attention you receive.

     21W.021- MIT 150: Inside, Live

This is a writing class about MIT and all its cultural, social and historical nuances. The goal of this class is to discover more about ourselves, student life, and what makes MIT, MIT. A CI-HW (Writing Intensive Humanities Course) the basis of this class lies in two realms, writing and discussions. Every day has a few readings to write about beforehand and we come to class prepared to have discussions over our interpretations of the readings and what we thought. Having fallen in love with this Socratic method early on in High School it’s been an interesting experience that I have genuinely enjoyed. The writing portion consists of 3 papers that need to sum to a total of 20 pages written. Every paper you write is then peer reviewed in one of two methods. The first method is through small peer review where you meet up with the teacher and two other students and you discuss the ups and downs of the three papers on the table. Writing a letter to each of your fellow group members, the small groups provide a great forum for understanding how other people read your essays. The second type of peer review is a class wide one. Three students in the class hand in their essays early and the rest of the class writes letters and has a sizable, 20-40 minute, discussion about each essay. Both are extremely helpful methods that have both revealed how other college students read my essays and what it is I consistently do wrong. To top it all off, I’ve learned more about MIT than any Wikipedia page could ever teach me.

     EC.A740- D-Lab Discovery

D-Lab Discovery is a freshman advising seminar all about teaching “creativity, problem solving and prototyping skills”. With most of the seminar setup into modules, every week a new topic of interest is covered with the emphasis on global development. The next section I talk about (Casting) is about a module from this seminar where we hoped to get a deeper understanding of metals so that we could further development in third world countries. While I’ve currently dropped the seminar due to time constraints, the lectures on Creativity and the weekly homework projects were interesting and forced you to think, excuse the cliche, outside of the box.

     PE.2011Q1.0608- Beginner Pistol

An introduction to pistol shooting, Beginner Pistol is one of the fastest filling classes at MIT. Filling up spots in a matter of minutes, beginner pistol is coveted because of it’s fulfillment of a requirement for a Pirate’s Certificate. Available to students who have completed Pistol, Archery, Sailing and Fencing, the Pirate’s Certificate is a bit of MIT lore. Taught by one of the funniest men I’ve ever met, Mike Conti, the class was a hoot. Starting us off slow, Mike taught us from the ground up making sure safety and proper technique was the name of the game. At the end of the day I gained a respect for firearms and took one step closer to a Pirate’s Certificate.


Groggily shuffling from my room to the basement of the infinite at 8:55am, I counted down room numbers 4-012, 4-013, 4-014(The Foundry). Taking off my backpack to rummage for the foam sculpture that was to be cast in aluminum, I walked into a modern day foundry filled with convention ovens, centrifugal casters and molten metals. Greeted by two of my fellow D-Lab Discovery Seminar classmates, we patiently waited for Michael Tarkanian to guide us through the casting process.

This week’s goal for D-Lab Discovery was to “Discover Metals”. After going through different types of cold molding that are used in developing countries, we moved on to the Lost-Foam casting method that the folks over in course 3(Material Science) are well versed in.  Also meeting with Shaymus ’12, a senior in course 3 who was there to smelt medals for the people in 3.091(Introduction to Solid State Chemistry) who had scored a perfect score on the periodic table quiz, we were guided through the ins and outs of the foundry. Explaining how all of the equipment worked and how the foam-casting process would go today Shaymus showed us his mold and talked about the history of the process. Soon after talking about how centrifugal casting allowed for detailed jewelry work, Mike walked and began to suit up. Telling us how the process would go he instructed us to pack casting sand into every caveat of our foam sculpture. Mike then began to heat up the convention oven and tell us how we were in for a treat. Sticking in the aluminum bar he discussed how convention ovens worked from an 8.02(Electricity and Magnetism) point of view. Pointing out the shape of the oven he told us how the molten aluminum would behave, but rather than explaining it, let me show you.


(Sorry for the lack of audio, it’s a shame you didn’t hear Mike serenade us with “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” by Elton John.)*


*This may or may not have occurred.

Three sides of my object, let's pretend the fourth doesn't exist...

My attempt at an artsy photo

After all the casting was said and done we parted ways to head back to a normal day at MIT.


A few weeks back I spent my first birthday away from home and a special one it was. Catching up with the folks I graduated with, I finally turned 18, in all its lottery ticket buying, election voting, and sweepstakes entering goodness. And what better way to spend the day than longboarding, everywhere. Waking up in the wee hours of the morning, a couple of friends of mine decided it was about time we find a hill in the blasted flat lands we call Massachusetts (and I’m from the legendarily flat plains of Kansas). Boarding around Cambridge we found a small hill here and there and rode down them. After exhausting our resources we called it a day, it was a bit too cold to spend scouring Cambridge. Heading back and checking Google Earth Elevations we figured there had to be a better way. Remembering a video I watched of folks longboarding in parking garages, I suggested we try it ourselves. Listing the parking garages that were readily available, we went around and tried our luck on some steep inclines.

I swear, there's a person in this picture

(High fives to the person who finds Alex J. ’15 in this picture)

Having fun, the hours dwindled away until the sun had set and it was about time we become productive. 8.01 loomed over all of our heads and no amount of procrastinating would solve our energy problems, it was mostly kinetic energy that wouldn’t cooperate. So we found ourselves trudging back to Simmons to finally hunker down and work. A few problems later dinner time rolled around and my friends headed off to put their meal plans to good use. Twiddling my thumbs whilst watching cute cat videos and wasting an inordinate amount of time, another friend walked (Teri O. ’15) in and suggested we finally take the time to walk to the art store and get the PSET notebook I’ve been coveting. What exactly is a PSET notebook you might ask, and the answer would be this guy!



A place for me to rewrite all of my problem sets on clean white paper with, and I emphasize the importance of this last trait, perforated edges. Searching far and wide we found Blick Art Store in Central Square. Excited at the prospect of not doing work, we scurried off and spent a ridiculous amount of time looking at art supplies before dropping by McDonalds and heading back to East Campus. But on the trip back a problem arose. Teri O. ’15 had forgotten her jacket in the DuPont Athletic Gymnasium after swimming. Half way to EC we pulled a 180 and walked back to the grab her jacket. After prodding at various doors in the Du Pont Gym to no avail, we called it quits and headed back to East Campus once more. Having wasted way more time than the typical Reddit user the night before a paper was due, we finally arrived at East Campus. And what did we find?


A considerable upgrade to my door!

Happy Father's Day!

It was all an elaborate ruse to get me off campus. In a very “ahhh you got me!” wag of the finger type of way I thanked everyone, collectively named the Wolf Pack(Teri O., Matthew O, Alex J., Tiandra R., Jonathan L., Joseph F.) ’15 and unwrapped my presents. My favorite present has to be the closet. It was EXACTLY what I needed.



And with that I’ll end another blog post. Tune in next time for posts about Hall Thanksgiving, New York City, and The End of the Semester (with a hint about what’s to come during IAP).

9 responses to “Classes and Casting and Birthdays, oh my!”

  1. Willy says:

    Beautiful :’)

  2. KP says:

    You have great friends! Happy (belated) birthday!

  3. DanielG says:

    First, it’s good that you are familiar and not scared of firearms. Keep up the good work and make all of us cowboys out west proud (:

    Second, Alex J. ’15 is in the upper left hand corner of the picture in question. You can see his longboard as the orange streak on the road and he is the darkish area. The picture was a long exposure, which is why he looks faint and ghostish.

    May I have a high-five? :p

  4. Jose says:

    This post is great. It makes me miss freshman year ):
    Jose ’12

  5. Arnav S. says:

    What’s the ‘xx mean? I know it’s a year, but is it the graduation year, or entering yer, or what?
    I will (hopefully) attend MIT for four years, making me Arnav S. ’20.

  6. Arnav S. says:


  7. Brandon J. says:

    Those first 3 classes sound like the last year or two of high school to me, what with AP Chem, Physics, and Calc BC – though our Calc so far is single variable, only 2D. Yay for GIRs, I guess. Kind of nice to see that not everything at MIT is super way high hard stuff.

    Also… if I get in I’m TOTALLY going for the Pirate’s License.

  8. Ian H.-B. says:

    Sounds like fun! Happy birthday! Glad you can use your present rofl.

  9. Natnael G. '15 says:

    @KP, Jose, Ian & Willy, thank you!
    @DanielG all the high fives in the world to you my man.
    @Arnav, the ‘xx means their graduating year. So my friends and I are mainly ’15’s.
    @Brandon, yup, they like to start you off easy =).