Text & photos by ROGER ARCHIBALD
Arrayed on the courtyard in front of MIT’s Great Dome, Soft Rockers utilized both solar energy during the day as well as kinetic energy from the motion of rocking to charge batteries that illuminated them at night and provided additional power for users’ portable electronics. Photo © Roger Archibald.
When the Massachusetts Institute of Technology received its original charter in 1861 just two days before the outbreak of the Civil War, few people imagined it would become the powerhouse of engineering, science and technological innovation that it is today. Now 150 years later, MIT has been celebrating its sesquicentennial all this past year with numerous exhibitions, performances, presentations and other events focused not only on its colorful past, but also looking forward to an even more vibrant future.
Culminating the celebrations was the most colorful event of all, the Festival of Art, Science and Technology (FAST) that during one weekend in early May presented for the public a score of different exhibitions and installations — all involving “kinetic illumination” — at numerous points on the Cambridge campus and adjacent waters of the Charles River directly opposite downtown Boston. In MIT’s variation on scientific notation, the mostly nocturnal display simply became known as FAST Light.
From the Institute’s Infinite Corridor linking many of its oldest buildings, to the large grassy courtyard before its signature Great Dome, to the half-mile long Harvard Bridge connecting the campus to Boston, and floating upon the waters nearby, twenty different artistic interpretations of the MIT experience contributed by multiple members of the Institute community drew the public to experience an unusual glimpse of the school’s brand of creativity (an installation of ice erected earlier in the year had already succumbed to campus warming). As darkness fell, the various exhibits literally lit up the night.
As with all such anniversary celebrations, the exhibition came to an end all too soon, leaving observers to wonder what MIT minds might conjure fifty years hence for their bicentennial. In the meantime, much more detailed information on the event can be found at its website. 
- To see all the photos accompanying this article, download the SEJournal Fall 2011 PDF  (page 14).
Roger Archibald is the SEJournal Photo Editor.
From the quarterly newsletter SEJournal, Fall 2011 issue.