Special Course Listings

Course 16 IAP 2022 Offerings

Note that most of the subjects below are offered under special subject numbers listed in the MIT Subject Listings and Schedules. To receive credit for an IAP subject, students must pre-register for the subject by January 3, 2022.  Since there is no formal registration for IAP, a student who misses the January 3rd deadline will use the Add/Drop Application to register for a class or to make changes to their IAP registration. To avoid late fees and petitions, this must be done by the end of IAP. View IAP registration guidelines and deadlines.

Also be aware that some instructors might have recently opted to offer their IAP classes virtually and asynchronously. These instructors will email zoom details to students who are registered in their classes. Please feel free to reach out directly to instructors if you have any questions and concerns.  

Please contact Marie Stuppard, the Academic Program Administrator, at mas@mit.edu with any questions.

Non-Credit Activities

Speakers: Dan Erkel (Research Assistant, MIT AeroAstro ESL), Dr. Brian Weeden (Secure World Foundation) and Prof. Jeffrey A. Hoffman (Director of Human Systems Lab, HSL MIT; former NASA Astronaut)
Dates: Thursday, January 27, 2022 and Friday, January 28, 2022
Time: 10 AM to Noon ET (for both talks)
Registration Link: Please register for these talks.

Talk Descriptions:
Talk 1 (January 27, 2022): Dan Erkel, AeroAstro PhD and TPP SM candidate served as one of the lead technical experts supporting the creation of Hungary’s National Space Strategy In the first lecture, Dr Weeden and Dan will discuss challenges and options new actors and spacefaring nations face in developing national space strategies The lecture will use the lens of systems focused methods and give case studies of how Hungary and other countries recently developed their space strategies.

Talk 2 (January 28, 2022): The focus of the second lecture will be on Hungary’s astronaut program, HUNOR. Prof. Hoffman will discuss the current and future role of astronauts, addressing questions with Dan on how an astronaut program can benefit emerging space nations in a new era of human spaceflight.

Contact: Dan Erkel, derkel@mit.edu

Instructor: Dr. Shu T. Lai
Date: Wednesday, January 5, 2022
Time: 03:00PM-04:00PM EDT
Zoom Link: Access Zoom link for this talk.
Enrollment: Unlimited: No Advance sign-up
Prerequisites: None
Talk Description:
Spacecraft charging affects electronic measurements onboard and may be destructive for a spacecraft. This session explains what, where, and why spacecraft charging occurs. The incoming energetic electrons from space plasmas compete with the outgoing secondary electrons. The balance of currents determines the spacecraft potential. A critical temperature of ambient electrons controls the onset of spacecraft charging. Real satellite data are shown and explained.

Sponsor: Aeronautics and Astronautics
Contact: Dr. Shu T. Lai, shlaii11@mit.edu

Instructor: Dr. Shu T. Lai
Date: Friday, January 7, 2022
Time: 03:00PM-04:00PM EDT
Zoom Link: Access Zoom link for this talk.
Enrollment: Unlimited: No Advance sign-up
Prerequisites: None
Talk Description:
As we know, spacecraft charging is determined by current balance. However, the photoelectron current from a spacecraft exceeds that of the ambient electron. Can a spacecraft charge naturally to negative potentials in sunlight? Yes, it can! The reason is surprisingly interesting. The photoelectrons can be trapped on the sunlit side of a spacecraft. We will also discuss some novel mitigation methods.

Sponsor: Aeronautics and Astronautics
Contact: Dr. Shu T. Lai, shlaii11@mit.edu

For-Credit Activities

Special Subject #: 16.101 Topics in Fluids & Propulsion
Subject Title: Computational Fluid Dynamics for Practical Aerodynamicists
Prerequisites: Unified Level Fluid Mechanics
Units: 3-3-0
Level: U (graded A-F)
Instructors: Professor Qiqi Wang; Dr. Robert Haimes
Schedule: 1/11 through 1/21, 10:00-11:00 AM EDT, Virtual
Zoom Link: Access the Zoom link for this course.
Subject Description:
Skills for using modem computational aerodynamics is becoming increasingly important in the aerospace industry. Four critical tools are required for a complete toolchain: geometry preparation, meshing, flow solver, and visualization. This IAP course will give students a practical tutorial of how to use these tools to predict aerodynamic performance of aircraft designs and investigate the aerodynamic flow field.

Learning Objectives:
After completion of the course, the students should be able to:

  1. Construct a water-tight geometry for typical aircraft configurations, with parts including fuselage, wings, typical tails, nacelle, and propeller blades.
  2. Generate surface and volume meshes for such geometry suitable for Reynolds-Averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) solutions, making correct decisions on what regions the surface mesh and volume mesh should be refined.
  3. Perform computational fluid dynamics simulations using the generated mesh, making correct decisions on the appropriate boundary conditions, turbulence models, and time step size.
  4. Interpret the results, and investigate the computed flow field using appropriate flow visualization techniques.

Special Subject #’s: 16.S685 (U-level) or 16.S890 (G-level)
Subject Title: Spacecraft Attitude Control
Units: 3-2-1
Prerequisites: 16.002. 16.06, 16.07 would be helpful
Grading: P-D-F
Instructors: Michael Paluszek; Professor Kerri Cahoy; Professor Olivier de Weck

Course Description: An introduction to the pointing control of spacecraft. Learn how to go from requirements to an operating control system. The course will cover the space environment, actuators, sensors, control and estimation. There will be six 90 minute lectures and two labs. There will be one problem set. In the labs, you will build an operating attitude control system in MATLAB. Examples will be drawn from a wide variety of operating spacecraft. Students taking the graduate version of the course (16.S890) will have additional assignments. For more information, contact the instructor, Michael Paluszek, at paluszek@mit.edu.

Lectures 1/10-1/12; 1/18-1/20; 1/24-1/25; 2:00-3:30 PM EDT; Room 35-225
Lab: 1/24-1/25; 2:00-3:30 PM EDT; Room 1-390

  • Week 1:
    Monday, 1/10 Lecture
    Tuesday, 1/11 Lecture
    Wednesday, 1/12 Lecture – Problem set distributed
  • Week 2:
    Tuesday, 1/18 Lecture
    Wednesday, 1/19 Lecture
    Thursday, 1/20 Lecture
  • Week 3:
    Monday, 1/24 Lab
    Tuesday, 1/25 Lab

The lectures will be 90 minutes starting at 2:00 PM EDT, including 60 minutes of presentation and 30 minutes of guided discussion of the presentation material. Office hours will be from 4:00 pm to 5:00 PM EDT, Mondays and Tuesdays; and 10:00 AM-12:00 PM EDT on Tuesdays.

Students taking the graduate version of the course (16.S890) will have additional assignments.

All enrolled students will get a draft of Michael Paluszek’s textbook to accompany the course plus MATLAB software for the labs.

Special Subject #: 16.S688
Subject Title: “RACER: Robot Autonomy for CompetitivE Racing”
Level: U (graded P/D/F); or taken for no-credit (open to grad students and postdocs)
Prerequisites: none
Units: 3-3-0
Instructors: Professor Luca Carlone and Matthew Boyd (contact either with questions)
Classroom: 32-082 (final competition at the Johnson Athletic Center track)

IMPORTANT: Fill in this admission survey by Saturday (Jan 8th) at 8pm to help us form the teams.
We have a limited number of platforms, so admissions will prioritize undergraduate students and will be on a first-come first-served basis otherwise.

Proposed Schedule:

  • January 10th, 2-4 pm: Robots and Autonomous Vehicles: Intro and Assembly
  • January 12th, 2-4 pm: Robot Operating System and Python
  • January 14th, 2-4 pm: Sensing and vision
  • January 18th, 2-4 pm: Control and obstacle avoidance. (Note: this is a Tuesday since Monday, Jan 17th is MLK Day)
  • January 19th, 2-4 pm: Localization and Mapping
  • January 21st, 2-4 pm: Machine Learning and Object Detection
  • January 24th, 2-4 pm: No lecture / Hackathon
  • January 26th, 2-4 pm: No lecture / Final Competition

Would you like to learn how to program fully-autonomous mini racecars, and compete in an autonomous head-to-head race? Form your team, and join the race!

Every member of the winning team will be awarded an iPad mini. The subject is 6 credit units for undergraduate students. Graduate students and post-doctoral scholars are also eligible for the prizes.

Subject Description:
This subject builds on top of the RACECAR course offered at MIT during IAP 2016-2019 and is motivated by the increasing interest towards agile autonomous systems, as witnessed by the recent RACER (Robotic Autonomy in Complex Environments with Resiliency) DARPA program or the Formula Student Driverless competition. The subject provides a hands-on introduction to robotics and autonomous systems, starting from hardware and software architectures (e.g., electro-mechanical components, Robot Operating System) and focusing on algorithms and autonomy (spanning sensing, perception, and control). The lectures are complemented by in-person labs centered on a new RACECAR platform that the students will use to implement autonomous behaviors, leading to a final autonomous race. Contrarily to previous offerings, we will put more emphasis on perception and visual navigation, and the final race will see the racecars competing head-to-head at the Johnson Athletic Center track. The subject is particularly recommended for students without prior experience in robotics who (i) are interested in experiencing some of the challenges of embodied intelligences, (ii) want to reinforce their background in preparation for more advanced course (e.g., 6.141/16.485, 16.485, or 6.800/6.843, to name a few), or (iii) want to become part of a community of students and researchers with a strong passion for robotics.

Special Subject #: 16.687 (to receive credit, students must register under 16.687)
Subject Title: Private Pilot Ground School
Prerequisites: none
Units: 3-0-0
Level: U (graded P/D/F)
Enrollment: Register for 16.687 but also sign-up in advance at https://tinyurl.com/mit16687-2022. Attendance: Participants must attend all sessions
Instructors: Dr. Tina Prabha Srivastava; Dr. Philip Greenspun


  • Jan/3 Mon 12:00PM-1:00PM Virtual
  • Jan/4 Tues 12:00PM-1:00PM Virtual
  • Jan/5 Wed 12:00PM-1:00PM Virtual
  • Jan/6 Thur 12:00PM-1:00PM Virtual
  • Jan/7 Fri 12:00PM-1:00PM Virtual

Subject Details:
Would you like to fly a plane, helicopter, or commercial drone? Or understand the engineering behind today’s human-occupied aircraft and air traffic control system? Join us and learn everything that an FAA-certificated Private pilot or Remote Pilot needs to know for the official knowledge test. The course includes qualitative aerodynamics, airplane and helicopter systems, practical meteorology, navigation and cross-country flight planning, and human factors. We present the FAA-required theory, pose some thought-experiments, and offer practical advice based on instructors’ real-world experience.

Prerequisites: A few evenings of reading. Download three free PDFs from the FAA web site: Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge (read Chapters 1, 3-8, 12, 14-16), Airplane Flying Handbook, (read Chapters 1-3, 7-8, 10), and Helicopter Flying Handbook (read Chapters 1-4, 9). Download ForeFlight (iOS only) or Garmin Pilot (Android or iOS) and set yourself up with a 30-day free trial.

Course staff: Dr. Tina P. Srivastava, pilot and MIT alum (Course 16 S.B.; System Design and Management S.M.; Ph.D supervised in Course 16, ESD, Sloan); Dr. Philip Greenspun, an FAA Airline Transport Pilot and Flight Instructor for both airplanes and helicopters, MIT alum (Course 18 S.B.; Course 6 Ph.D).

16.687 Format for IAP 2022: This course is usually taught as an in-person 3-day 9am-5pm course. However, in 2022, it will be taught in a virtual format (same as in 2021). Rather than having 3 day-long Zoom classes, we have developed a modified format in conjunction with the MIT Learning Tech office:

Dates: The course will be 5-days, from January 3-7th.
Zoom Session: Each day, we will have a 1-hour live Zoom session at 12pm ET. During this morning session, we will teach selected concepts, conduct Zoom polls, review the main concepts covered the previous day, and hold a Q&A.
Asynchronous: We will leverage the videos of the lectures recorded during the IAP 2019 class posted on MIT OCW: https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/aeronautics-and-astronautics/16-687-private-pilot-ground-school-january-iap-2019/. We will assign a few lectures per day. Students can watch these asynchronously, on their own time, or in advance of the course. We will also provide a Zoom room where students can optionally watch the lectures together each day. Assignments: Each day, students will have an assignment related to that day’s materials. Assignments will be due by 5pm ET.
Register at: http://philip.greenspun.com/teaching/ground-school/. To receive MIT course credit, also register with MIT Registrar for 16.687.

Prerequisites: (6.911 and 6.912) or permission of instructor
Units: 3-3-0
Schedule: Meets 1/10 to 1/21; Lecture: MTWRF 8-5 (33-116)
Instructors: Professor Olivier L. de Weck; Dr. Jim Magarian
Course Description: Builds fundamental skills in engineering design and develops a holistic view of the design process through conceiving, designing, prototyping, and testing a multidisciplinary component or system. Students are provided with the context in which the component or system must perform; they then follow a process to identify alternatives, enact a workable design, and improve the design through multi-objective optimization. The performance of end-state designs is verified by testing. Though students develop a physical component or system, the project is formulated so those from any engineering discipline can participate. The focus is on the design process itself, as well as the complementary roles of human creativity and computational approaches. Designs are built by small teams who submit their work to a design competition. Pedagogy based on active learning, blending lectures with design and manufacturing activities. Limited to 30 students. Preference given to students in the Gordon-MIT Engineering Leadership Program.