Each year, Terrascope students take on a new Mission – a challenge that asks freshmen to solve a real-world, environmental problem.

This year’s “Mission 2020,” asked Class of 2020 freshmen to plan for sustainable, equitable, and resilient cities:

Class of 2020:
your mission is to
develop a plan to maximize
the sustainability, resilience
and equity of cities
around the world by 2050.

Starting fall 2016, students enrolled in Terrascope confront the challenge of remaking cities in the 21st century. Class of 2020 freshmen in Terrascope will chart a path forward for the worlds’ cities, from US cities seeking to reduce their environmental footprint to rapidly growing cities in developing nations seeking sustainable economic growth and social development.

Mission 2020:

In the fall term (Subject 12.000, “Solving Complex Problems,”), students work in teams to produce innovative templates for the future of cities; at the end of the semester they present these plans to a panel of experts, the MIT community and the rest of the world (via global webcast). In the spring term, students have the opportunity in Subject 1.016 (“Design for Complex Environmental Issues”) to get first-hand experience in design and fabrication as they work in small teams on hands-on engineering projects aimed at remaking cities. In a separate class (Subject SP.360, “Terrascope Radio”), students learn to communicate these important ideas and concepts with members of the general public by creating engaging, informative, entertaining audio features. Students also have the option of taking part in a spring break trip to a region of the world at the heart of this year’s topic.

Each Year’s Mission is Made of:

Solving Complex Problems

In the program’s cornerstone fall subject, 12.000, freshmen work as an interdisciplinary team to design a viable solution for the year’s Mission.


In the fall, students present their final design before a panel of experts and develop a website to provide a detailed description of their plan. Final projects for spring classes are presented at a Bazaar of Ideas and a public radio broadcast.

Spring Classes + Field Trip

Terrascope offers optional spring classes: SP.360 – Terrascope Radio, and 1.016 – Design for Complex Environmental Issues; and a week-long field trip over spring break.


Terrascope offers weekly lunches and study sessions during the semester, other year-round outings and activities, and 24-hour access to the Terrascope lounge (located in the center of campus).

Missions and Spring Break Destinations: