Hack Madness: The MIT Tournament of Hacks


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

Click image for updated tournament bracket.

Click image for completed bracket and full descriptions.

Hacking. A proud MIT tradition. In honor of this legendary custom, the MIT Alumni Association presented Hack Madness: The MIT Tournament of Hacks, a two-week contest that invited the MIT community to vote for their favorite hack. More than 27,000 votes were cast on Slice of MIT and social media.  The tournament won the Gold Medal for Social Media—Alumni and Advancement Programs at 2015 CASE District I Excellence Awards and was featured on boston.com.

Click to see full voting results.

Click to see full voting results.

Some MITers were partial to gags on the Great Dome or hacks at Harvard. And others just enjoyed the sheer old-school strength it takes to pull a car on a roof.

In the tournament’s championship round, the Harvard-Yale game—three separate hacks that unfolded on national television—defeated the Caltech Cannon Heist, a 2006 prank that transported Caltech’s three-ton Fleming House cannon more than 2,500 miles undetected to MIT campus, by a score of 63-37 percent.

The Harvard-Yale game and the Cannon Heist also received the most cumulative votes throughout the five-round tournament. Click on the interactive tournament bracket for full results and and the voting results graph for all vote totals.

Relive the Tournament

The five-round tournament took place over two weeks and began on Monday, March 3, 2014. The winner was announced on March 14—a.k.a Pi Day (03/14), an unofficial MIT holiday.

Frequent Asked Questions

How could I vote?

Could I vote in multiple locations?

      • Yes! Vote was available on all Slice of MIT and all Alumni Association social media outlets. Double votes in the same location counted as one vote.
      • Votes on sites outside of Slice of MIT and the Alumni Association’s social media channels (i.e., shared Facebook posts) were not counted.

How were the hacks chosen?

      • The tournament was compiled based on input from members of the secretive Institute of Hacking Theatrics and Fugacious Pranks (IHTFP) with invaluable input from Nightwork, the MIT Museum’s Institute for Hacks, Tomfoolery, and Pranks, and the online MIT IHTFP Hack Gallery. The tournament would not be possible without those resources.

Why should I have voted?

    • Who doesn’t have a favorite hack? Share your opinions with the MIT community, reconnect with old classmates, and help your favorite hack advance in the tournament.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Zach Rose March 2, 2014 at 9:09 am

This is fantastic! Very much looking forward to watching the tournament unfold.

Anyone looking for an additional primer on the Harvard-Yale Balloon Hack can check this out: http://www.astadke.org/alpha-phi-hack-of-1982.html. Post-hack press conference video included!


Judy Barnum March 3, 2014 at 6:51 pm

For Match 16 – I vote for the Cow on the Dorm.
My Dad was the MIT student who was milking the cow. He told the other guys that they had to twist the cow’s tail to get her to walk up all the stairs. They had a sign near the cow that read something like “Educated milk – 5 cents a quart”. Since the cow would not go back down the stairs, the guys had to hire a crane to lift the cow off the dorm roof. A picture of all the guys on the roof with the cow appeared on the front page of either the NY Times or the NY Herald newspaper. The newspaper accidentally flipped the negative before printing their picture. When a neighbor farmer saw the picture, he later asked Dad why he was milking the cow from the wrong side.


Brian Haas March 3, 2014 at 8:48 pm

Cow on Dorm wins!!!


Judy Barnum March 5, 2014 at 3:46 pm

For Round 2 – Match 8 – I vote for Cow on Dorm.


Bill Barnum March 6, 2014 at 8:37 am

Round 2 – Match 8 – Cow on Dorm


Gina March 7, 2014 at 2:54 pm

Go cow on dorm!


Bruce Pitbladdo March 8, 2014 at 8:03 pm

It’s great to see that the story which has been told for years about my uncle, William Pitbladdo, and his (future) brother-in-law is in the running for the top prize. My uncle got questioned as to why he was milking from the wrong side of the cow. (Explanation-see Judy Barnum’s comment>)


John Barriger March 9, 2014 at 10:02 pm

I vote for the Harvard Yale Stadium blast.


Mahamad Karim Kamal July 31, 2017 at 7:35 pm



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