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making things by Amber V. '24

a blog about being a meche major

Maybe my favorite part of course 2A is sitting next to my friend in 2.001 and jointly scrolling through MIT Confessions. 2.001, a core class on mechanics, is two hours long; reading those posts gets me through the rapid note-taking.

Midweek finds us gathering in a lounge and trudging through the psets, untangling each other’s equations when they get in snarls, checking for sign errors or gaps in understanding. This is not my favorite part, but I love how people in this major help each other out, lift each other up. I’m sure most majors are like that. More of us trickle into the lounge as the night wears on, sitting on sofas or the carpeted floor, racing the clock. 

My favorite part is not simply being finished, either, because by then it’s late and we’re all a little hosed, longing for more sleep than we will get that night.

On Fridays I have lab in 2.678, an intro circuitry class, where we are given schematics and sent out to construct amplifiers, radios, a light theremin. I’m always running on fewer hours of sleep than I could count on one hand. The other hand usually holds a Monster,01 that marketing <i>worked</i> and about half an hour into lab the caffeine hits, I blink through a fog, and the oscilloscope readings make some kind of sense. We’re making the sine wave of alternating voltage greater, square-shaped, upside-down. 

The lab is not my favorite part, I think. But I like coming in, walking through the Pappalardo Labs, and remembering that this is why I chose MechE. This is why I choose it, every day I come to class and try to pay attention. This is why I’m learning differential equations and mechanics, and not just topics I already know and already care about.

Immersing myself in this major is a trip. I struggle with the concept of having one’s major be one’s identity; my major is a fun thing I like to do, a way to pay the bills. It is a side pursuit for when I am not writing. I used to struggle with having one’s school be one’s identity — MIT is a cool place but much of it doesn’t represent me — or dorm be one’s identity — and this has changed since I came to East Campus. Maybe MechE will become more of me, too.

I like the community of MechEs. I like walking into class and knowing people — not just the ones I sit with but people across the lecture hall, who I’ve met once or twice, shared some club or activity with at some point in time.

I am Making Things. Maybe that’s my favorite part. 


I’ve always liked making things, building things. I make a lot of earrings. When my parents made changes on our house they recruited my sisters and I to move paving stones and bricks, mix concrete and help lay down tile. When the front bumper of my car got dented, my dad told me that since the bumper was plastic, you could heat it up with a hair dryer and snap the dented parts back into place. I didn’t believe him, but my car is orange, an expensive color to replace. So we tried it— and it worked. Now the only sign of dents are small scratches in the paint. 

This is not to say I have all the instincts. There is a learning curve here which I’m hauling myself up. I cannot say from this vantage whether the slope is steep or gentle.

I’m learning a lot through projects. I tried welding for the first time, kept eating through the metal. With the help of a shop mentor, I used a tube roller to bend a long steel pipe into a circle. One year ago, I’d never 3-D printed or done laser cutting or used half the machines that I have now. Right now I’m green, eager to ask the MechE community for advice; I’m excited to gain confidence, come into any machine room and know exactly where to go, what to do, without asking anyone. 

small pieces of metal with messy welding and several holes burned through the metal

hhhhhh these are *really bad* :’) I was told that like 1/2 an inch of the weld is acceptable

I read through the first chapters of my novel the other day, prepping ten pages for a workshop. The main character is an architect’s apprentice. Most of what I know of architecture I learned on Wikipedia and in AP Art History, back in high school; much of what I know of building I learned while moving bricks with my sisters. So while many of the terms in my first draft are accurate, and the characters’ thought processes are not terribly off, there are descriptions of buildings or towers that do not display the insight a real architect would have.

Six weeks of 2.001 does not an architect make, but I saw sentences that could use fixing, and made them better.

I can look up terms and materials. I’ll get actual architecture majors to look over the draft once I’ve done proper edits, so that nothing is glaringly wrong. But I want a better grasp of what my characters would look for when they look at a building, what elements of design draw their eye. I’m hoping I’ll have more of that, a month or so from now. I’ll come back to the sentences I highlighted and try again to make them good.

  1. that marketing worked back to text