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Two-Ring Circus
How two icons were bejeweled

“Where would we get such a big ring?” the plotters asked themselves. It was 1979, and residents of Baker House were scheming to place a large brass rat on the finger of the John Harvard statue in Harvard Yard. Ricardo Sitchin ‘80 was taking a bronze-casting class at Wellesley, so he was nominated to make the ring. It “only took about 15 hours,” he recalls. On May 19, 1979, the “Smiling Six” used nondestructive epoxy glue to install the ring on John Harvard’s finger.

But when the Third East hackers needed a brass rat to mount on the Caltech cannon, they turned to 21st-century technology. This rat–12.5 inches tall and made of gilded milled aluminum–was produced on multiple milling machines at four MIT machine shops and required nearly 1,000 hours of labor.

“They told us it was a headlight bezel for the new solar-powered motorcycle,” says Gerry Wentworth, technical-services head at the Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity. “We knew they were full of it, but we really didn’t know exactly what it was, either. The ring was made in sections, and we never saw the finished product until the cannon showed up at MIT.” Wentworth says the hackers pretty much handled the design work themselves but needed help with the machining and programming.

The hackers donated the ring to the MIT Museum. Says curator Deborah Douglas, “It’s the one hack artifact we expect to still have a century from now.” 

[Click here to see images of the 1979 and 2006 brass rat hacks.]

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