Terrascope in Space

Students and visitors swap trivia questions and answers at the parklet built by Terrascope freshmen

29 Sep 2016 Terrascope in Space

Students transform spaces on and off campus at the start of Mission 2020

Terrascope has always had a far reach beyond the classroom.  In 1999, freshman embarked on a Search for Life on Mars and, since then, freshman have taken on Missions that span the globe: the oceans, the arctic, desserts, and cities for this year’s Mission 2020.  Each year’s Mission challenges freshmen to define their problem areas – both the topic areas and the geographic areas they’ll investigate.

This year’s Mission, The Future of Cities, just launched a mini-project to define the most critical challenges facing urban areas and identify (a) cities that are effectively addressing them and (b) cities that are struggling to do so.  This assignment (for the Terrascope subject 12.000, Solving Complex Problems) gets the freshmen started on charting their own path towards solving the problems facing the Earth’s urban environments.  In late November, we’ll post a link to the students’ website that maps the issues and cities they explore.

The website that’s built for Mission 2020 will be added to Terrascope’s online universe, which has expanded in the last year.  Here’s a list to help you navigate:

  • This website (terrascope.mit.edu) – with details on Terrascope and each year’s Mission, which span both semesters of freshman year and include subjects 12.000, 1.016, and SP.360 and extracurricular trips and activities.  Go to the Missions webpage (terrascope.mit.edu/missions/) for links to each Mission’s webpage and links to student websites.



Terrascope’s physical universe is also in flux!  The Terrascope student lounge has a fresh coat of dry-erase paint on its walls, a dishwasher, and new furniture that makes the space more flexible.  Across the hall in 16-177, the Terrascope office has transformed to offer meeting spaces for small groups, with more dry-erase walls, a TV, and video conference equipment to connect students to experts (there will also be video games!).

Of course our renovation wouldn’t be properly Terrascope-y without handing over the control of our spaces to the community of freshmen and upperclassmen.  On September 2nd, the Terrascope lounge hosted inaugural dinner to write on the dry-erase walls and brainstorm for the design of a Terrascope parklet in Kendall Square.

In true Terrascope fashion, the students didn’t only take charge of their lounge, but they also created a space for the public to engage with this year’s Mission:  a structure that transformed a 20’x7’ parking space on 3rd Street into a public park, with a trivia wheel and a model road-building activity for visitors.  Among the visitors who stopped were the director the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative, the Head of the MIT Department of Urban Studies & Planning, the Sustainability Planner for the City of Cambridge, US Department of Transportation staff, and a man whose German company designs compact parking solutions.  Terrascope freshman also visited during their 12.000 class period – stepping outside the classroom to explore solutions for cities everywhere.