Hack Madness: The MIT Tournament of Hacks—Round 1

by Jay London on March 3, 2014 · 2 comments

in Alumni Life, Arts, Campus Culture, Hacks, Modern Geekhood, Remember When...


Click the image for the updated tournament bracket.

Update: We have a winner! See who was named Hack Madness Champion.

Welcome to the opening round of Hack Madness: The MIT Tournament of Hacks—the Alumni Association’s quest to determine the MIT community’s favorite hack. Round 1 voting is open and ends on Tuesday, March 4, at 11:59 p.m. EST.  Vote in the polls below or the Alumni Association’s social media channels.

Vote by region:

View the full interactive bracket and visit the Hack Madness page for tournament details. Check back to Slice of MIT on Monday, March 10, at noon to see the third-round winners and vote on the next round.

Edwin Phortey Region

Harvard-Yale Game vs. Scrabble

In 1982, hackers inflated a weather balloon near the 50-yard line that spelled “MIT” before it burst, spelled “M-I-T” with their bodies at halftime, and tricked fans into holding “M-I-T” signs in the stands.

In 1986, the tiles of the Weisner Building (E15) transformed into a Scrabble board. In 2007, E15 was Scrabbled as part of a larger hack that placed board games at different locations.

The Great Dome vs. The Big Screw

Two days before the 1999 release of Star Wars, the Great Dome was transformed into R2-D2. Hackers also provided disassembly instructions addressed to “Imperial Drones” and signed “Rebel Scum.”

The multiple screw-on-dome hacks pay homage to the Institute Screw Contest, a charity fundraiser that honors faculty and staff voted most successful at “screwing”  students.

Circus vs. Cathedral of Our Lady of the All-Night Tool

Lobby 7 was transformed into a big top in 2012, complete with a model ring master, trapeze artist, high-wire artist, acrobats, contortionists, and a stunt man set to be shot from a cannon.

20 years earlier, Lobby 7 was reimagined as a “tool”-dedicated cathedral, filled with stained-glass, pews, an altar, an organ, a confessional, and holy relics. Two MIT alumni were married in a Wiccan wedding ceremony.

Snow Shower vs. Disney Buys MIT

In 1968, students faked a blizzard by filling shower stalls with snow, opening windows, and turning on the shower. They told the Boston Herald that they invented snow-making shower nozzles. The paper ran the story on their front page.

In 1998, the hacked MIT homepage claimed Disney had bought MIT for $6.8 billion and linked to a press release that announced President Vest would become Disney’s V.P. for Nerd Education.

James E. Tetazoo Region

Smoot vs. Bruno

In 1958, Seven students calibrated the Harvard Bridge using a 5’7″ freshman named Smoot. The bridge’s length: about 364.4 Smoots. Today, Smoots are recognized in the dictionary and by Google.

Created in 1972, a Bruno is a unit of volume equal to the size of the dent in the ground resulting from a six-story drop of a piano. A Bruno’s sound only occurs when a piano is thrown from Baker House.

Nerd Xing vs. VOMIT

The gold standard of MIT sign hacks. Posted above a crosswalk at 77 Massachusetts Ave., a non-descript sign with a silhouette was turned into an MIT student equipped with a back pack, a lab kit, and floppy disk. (Hey, it was 1987.)

in 2006, hackers added two additional letters to the five-foot stainless steel MIT sign in front of the Stata Center: V and O, thought to be commentary on the building’s unique design.

Solar-Powered Subway Car vs. Campus Police Car

In 2009, hackers installed an MBTA-looking vehicle on the Great Dome and used solar power to navigate it around the dome’s perimeter. The train’s next stop was listed as “Baker House.”

An MIT police cruiser appeared on the top of the Great Dome in 1994. The car was equipped with flashing lights, a dummy police officer, donuts, a parking ticket, and plate number “IHTFP.”

Vest’s Office vs. Hockfield’s Note

In 1990, on Charles Vest’s first day as MIT president, his office was hidden by a bulletin board carefully placed in front of the president’s office door. His staff thought they were on the wrong floor.

On the morning of President Susan Hockfield’s inauguration in 2005, the non-descript wall of MIT’s Treasurer’s Office was transformed into an oversized $1 bill that featured the new president’s face.

Jack Florey Region

Caltech Cannon vs. Athena

In 2006, students traveled cross-country to rival Caltech and transported the school’s three-ton cannon back to MIT. They also fashioned an over-sized Brass Rat for the cannon’s barrel.

Athena is a Greek goddess and the name of the Institute’s long-time operating environment. During final exams in 2009, a massive Athena statue was placed in the center of MIT’s Killian Court, complete with a Mens et Manus-inscribed shield.

Dipsy Duck vs. Primrose Path

In the 1948, students unveiled the Dipsy Duck, a 12′ supposed generator that could be placed near rivers to produce exactly 3.14159 (π) volts. They also claimed it could be powered by beer.

In the mid-1980s, the 122′ path across Kresge Oval—the “Nerd Path”—was covered with an array of colorful primroses. In a nod to the path’s role as a shortcut, each end of the path was planted with impatiens.

Portable Toilet vs. Halo 3

In 1960, the John Harvard statue purportedly doubled as a public restroom. A toilet stall door was positioned at the statue’s base with an advertisement reading “Johnny-on-the-Spot, Portable Toilets, Rented/Serviced.”

Hackers honored the release of the 2007 video game Halo 3 by decorating John Harvard as video game character John-117 “Master Chief.” The statue was equipped with John-117’s helmet and assault rifle and a beaver emblem on his right shoulder.

Lunar Module vs. Wright Flyer

On the same day that Athena appeared in Killian Court, hackers commemorated the 40th anniversary of the first moon walk by placing a half-scale Apollo Lunar Module and an American flag on the Great Dome.

Honoring another aerial anniversary, hackers honored the centennial anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ first controlled flight by placing a replica Wright Flyer—equipped with a dummy pilot—on the top of the dome in 2003.

Institute Historian T.F. Peterson Region

Tetris vs. VU Meter

In 2012, Bldg. 54 was transformed into a giant game of Tetris. Players controlled the blocks from a console in front of the building and, upon defeat, the blocks crashed to the bottom.

On July 4, 1993, Bldg. 54 was converted into an enormous VU meter synced to the sounds of the Boston Pops’ Independence Day concert. The meter included had nine 6′ x 4′ red lights and had an output of more than 5,000 watts.

Kidnapped Guests vs. Claiming Harvard

In the 1940s, Harvard guests were the subject of periodic “kidnappings.” Actor Eddie Anderson was intercepted and brought to an MIT fraternity party. Burlesque queen Sally Rand was taken to an MIT reception and named “Associate Professor of Entertainment Engineering.”

In 1982, MIT students staged a faux takeover of Harvard, including a student resolution granting Harvard colonial status, a “Free Harvard” banner, and a mock abduction of MIT’s undergrad president.

Lobby 7 Inscription vs. Ender’s Game

In 1994, the etched-in-stone inscription in Lobby 7 replaced the words “Agriculture and Commerce” with “Entertainment and Hacking.” Hackers used Styrofoam that was painted to resemble stone and held in place by spring-loaded devices.

When the Ender’s Game movie was released in November 2013, hackers staged a pivotal scene in the movie—a training exercise in the Battle Room. Hackers also draped the logos of three Ender’s Game armies down Bldg. 10.

Cow on Dorm vs. Car on Dorm

In 1928, students transported a live cow to the roof of the six-story Class of 1893 Dormitory (now East Campus dorm). The Boston Herald reported that the cow went up to the roof easily but a “small army” was needed to bring her down.

In 1936, students used a block and tackle left behind by painters to pull an automobile to the roof of the Class of 1893 dorm. The car had the infamous phrase “Tech 2 Hell” on its roof.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Stephen Rawlinson March 3, 2014 at 7:51 pm

I lived in a fraternity in Boston and really appreciated those Smoot markings on the bridge.


Anonymous March 4, 2014 at 10:39 pm

Why the fuck is dalek hack not listed? That’s my favorite one! It was there my CPW and we all wondered how in the hell they got it on that completely inaccessible platform…


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