Skip to Content
MIT News feature

REX = MIT 101

Toilet paper dodgeball. PowerPoint Karaoke. Ice cream made using liquid nitrogen. Freshmen can try all of the above, test out the dorms, and meet other students during a week of Residence Exploration better known as REX.

It is Friday, August 28.

A group of MIT students are wielding power tools in the East Campus courtyard, building the world’s steepest wooden roller coaster. It’s a project designed to impress the freshmen—and get them building something awesome before they even set foot in a classroom.

The roller coaster—which starts with an eight-foot vertical drop at a 90° incline—is a highlight of Residence Exploration week, now known as REX. In the past, freshmen got temporary housing assignments and then scoped out and ranked the dorms during rush/orientation week. Then everyone moved. Today, students research and rank dorms for a housing lottery before arriving, so switching is minimal. But REX, which coincides with orientation, gives freshmen a chance to make sure they’ve found their ideal MIT home—and lets upperclassmen welcome them in true MIT fashion.

By Saturday afternoon, REX is in full swing. At Burton-­Conner, students test the aerodynamics of folded paper, actualizing models from The World Record Paper Airplane Book. Across Briggs Field, chains of Spongifarians (Simmons dwellers) spin in circles as they attempt Scottish dancing, while parents yell their farewells from cars. Inside the dorm that night, the theme is giant stuff: giant Connect Four, giant foam swords, and a giant card game of BS (it’s hard to lie when your lies are 8.25 by 11.75 inches).

Fast-forward to Tuesday. With rollerblades or a bike, it’s possible to catch the following: the New House paint war; Jell-O wrestling at Burton-Conner; ice cream made using liquid nitrogen at Random Hall, and Toscanini’s varieties at McCormick; a girl with red-purple-blue hair dyeing another student’s hair at East Campus; and a ride on the Big Flipper at Next House.

At 5:45 students from east and west face off in Killian Court. Battle cries—including “West is best!” and “We’re Senior House!”­—become a roar. East and west converge, tossing water balloons and deploying PVC-pipe water guns. The east side chants “MIT!” and west joins in. As the music switches to “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” the sides merge again, high-fiving.

At 6:54 at East Campus, the wall of high school accomplishments—plywood inscribed with freshmen’s greatest triumphs to date—is demolished with a satisfying thwack of a sledgehammer. But before MIT’s newest students tackle their first p-sets, they can take part in such things as a marshmallow fight at MacGregor, Maseeh Hall’s Renaissance fair, toilet paper dodgeball at Burton-Conner, truffle making at McCormick, Nerf chess at Random Hall, and PowerPoint karaoke at Simmons, as well as sampling free food offered by the likes of the Grilled Cheese Laboratory at Next House and the Random House of Pancakes. And while only 166 students will request a dorm change at the end of REX and just 60 will end up moving, the Class of 2019 will start the semester knowing more about their new campus—and each other.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

individual aging affects covid outcomes concept
individual aging affects covid outcomes concept

Anti-aging drugs are being tested as a way to treat covid

Drugs that rejuvenate our immune systems and make us biologically younger could help protect us from the disease’s worst effects.

close up of baby with a bottle
close up of baby with a bottle

The baby formula shortage has birthed a shady online marketplace

Desperate parents just want to feed their babies. They’re having to contend with misinformation, price gouging, and scams along the way.

"Olive Garden" NFTs concept
"Olive Garden" NFTs concept

I tried to buy an Olive Garden NFT. All I got was heartburn.

Our newest issue spells out what you need to know about the dizzying world of digital money.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose WongIllustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.