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Spring 2021 Courses

Rocket Launch

An Introduction to Rocket Science

How do you get to space? Why do you even want to go? From using your GPS to calling someone on the other side of the Earth, we use space-residing systems in our everyday lives without even realizing it. In this course, you will take a walk through the history of rocketry, discussing the various technological advancements that moved rockets from a simple tube of gunpowder to the sophisticated systems you see today. Through learning the history of rocket science alongside the science of it, this course will provide an interdisciplinary perspective on both what astronautics means to us today, as well as where we can hope to go in the future. Anyone with an interest in space, either as represented in current systems or in science fiction, is encouraged to join us on our journey.

Taught by Amrita Singh

Image by Denise Jans

Why Movies Matter

Have you seen Black Panther? Parasite? Moonlight? As these three blockbusters demonstrate, movies can be more than just a form of entertainment – they can also be a powerful tool to comment on important contemporary social and political events. This course will explore how film can be used as a medium for social commentary and change. First, we’ll learn the basics: how a filmmaker chooses what story to tell, and what tools they have at their disposal to achieve their vision. Then, we will analyze popular films (in part chosen by you) to see how they engage with important social issues. Finally, we’ll get to put these skills to practice ourselves by making short films about causes that we are passionate about. No previous experience is necessary, just an appreciation for film and a vision for a better world!

Taught by Benjamin Blum

Image by Samuel Branch

The United States As An Empire: And Its Five Territories

When you think of an "empire," do you envision a royal family? Maybe naval ships bearing its nation's flag or the ruins of Rome? You're not alone! History has described places like Britain and France as "empires" but we don't often see that term used with regards to the United States. In this course we will discuss how the United States has dabbled in expansion, much like other world powers. Still, we see ourselves as a collection of states, despite the lingering remnants of the Age of Imperialism. We will explore the five American territories - American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands - and ask ourselves, why are they rarely mentioned? If you're interested in history, law, politics or stories then this course is for you :)

Taught by Emily Johnson


Brains at Play:

Designing the Future of the Mind

Play, games, and the principles that underlie them have an essential role in building critical skills like systems thinking, creative problem solving, collaboration, empathy, and innovation. In this course, prepare to put your thinking caps on (both literal and metaphorical) and envision multiplayer games controlled by the human brain! Through weekly design fiction and game design exercises, students will become acquainted with emerging issues at the intersection of neuroscience, ethics, and society—and develop submissions to the Brains and Games International Design Fiction Competition on March 20th, 2021. The only requirement for this course is, naturally, an open mind.

Taught by Garrett Flynn

Image by David Pisnoy

Painting Through a Global Perspective

When you think of paintings, your mind might first wander to those famous oil paintings hanging
in French museums from artists such as Leonardo da Vinci or Vincent Van Gogh. However, such
artworks only represent a tiny fraction of the paintings we humans have created. In this class, we
hope to take you on a travel journey to explore different cultures of the world through paintings.
And through this journey, we will learn about different painting techniques, art movements,
artists, painting styles, and so much more. But at its core, this class will explore the essence of
painting: its reflection of humanity. We will discuss questions such as: What inspires a person to
paint? How do different cultures influence style? What can a painting tell us about a community?
And as our world becomes increasingly globalized, we will also explore how painting has
evolved to reflect the interactions and intersections of different global cultures. Each session in
this course will be an opportunity to learn about different cultures and how to critique paintings.

Taught by Lana Bridi and Soroush Ershadifar

Image by Joshua Sukoff

Let’s Talk Politics: Then and Now

Looking to the past is a good indicator of what our future will look like, especially in the
realm of politics. These last four years have undoubtedly revealed a lot about America and our
democracy that can be difficult to process. This class aims to explore past political policy and
how it affects our political climate today. At the beginning of each class, we will introduce the class to a different issue in politics by talking about a historical event that shapes the debate today. Then, students will be able to participate in a guided discussion about issues surrounding the political topics. We will also cover current events in the course. If you love talking politics or just want to know more about the world around you, you’ll be a great fit for our course!

Taught by Advaita Chandramohan and Jenny Lee

Image by Koshu Kunii

Race in America

We’ve heard time and time again that we live in a post-racial society. From Obama’s presidency to the rise of paragons of Black wealth such as Oprah, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, we in the United States have been rapidly heading towards racial equality.  Or so we thought. The truth is that we as a society are far from achieving racial equality. From the Black Lives Matter Movement and the light it shed on police brutality and systemic racism, to the rise of white supremacist groups in modern America, it is apparent that we still have a long way to go when it comes to addressing race in this country. In this class, we will broach the difficult topic of race, tracing its roots back to the inception of the U.S. and analyzing the role it plays in modern society. Looking at historical events, social movements, and modern-day issues, we will engage in class discussions and determine the steps necessary to truly achieve a so-called “post-racial society.” If you are interested in learning more about the origins of race and its role in society today, this is the class for you!

Taught by Neha Yadav

Image by David von Diemar

Medical Forensics

If you are the kind of person who loves solving murder mysteries and tackling criminal cases, then this class is for you! Every week, we will dissect a new criminal case and use forensic technology/medical science to catch the offender. Analysis of evidence we will explore include but are not limited to: a) Analysis of stab wounds, which can tell whether the blow was meant to be fatal and if the injury is the product of murder or suicide; b) Fingerprinting and DNA testing; c) Forensic botany in which pollen, leaves, and other plant material fragments are used to link suspects to crime scenes; d) Dental records, used to identify unknown bodies; e) Hair evidence; f)  Body’s state of decomposition, which can indicate the time of death; g) Analysis of blood splatters to identify where the murderer was standing at the time of the crime. Becoming a detective in our class means solving cases that will challenge your critical thinking skills and provide an insight into scientific concepts studied at the college level. 

Taught by Omer Zaffer and Maria Vardapetyan 

Image by Thought Catalog

Conspiracy Theories

What secrets are hidden at Area 51? Why do some people believe that COVID-19 is a hoax? Is time travel Tik Tok real? Who was involved in the assassination of JFK? All of these questions relate in some type of way to various conspiracy theories, which are, at their very core, theories that reject the traditional or widespread explanation for an event. Conspiracy theories seem to shroud every major world event, and perhaps for good reason. As ordinary American individuals, we are often privy to only a fraction of the information or truth surrounding certain events. In this class we will explore conspiracy theories ranging from fan theories about our favorite music artists to more serious topics such as the psychology behind the rise of extremist organizations. We will explore alternative search engines, go down Reddit and Youtube rabbit holes, and try to piece together truth and perspective in as many ways as possible. No idea is off limits in this class, and the only requirement is a passion for debating ideas and uncovering unconventional truths!

Taught by Nishan Sohoni

Image by Element5 Digital

The Truth Behind the Beauty Industry

From primitive beeswax balms and rosewater to modern-day anti-aging serums and lip fillers, the beauty industry has evolved tremendously over the years. However, behind the luxurious advertisements, eye-catching packaging, and celebrity sponsorships lies an industry with dark secrets. In this course, we’ll learn everything big companies don’t want you to know. We’ll talk about unethical marketing strategies, shady manufacturing practices, and the effect that a not-so-transparent industry can have on people’s mental and physical health. At the same time, we’ll learn about the beauty industry from a cultural standpoint, exploring and analyzing the ideas of beauty and societal standards around the world. Throughout this course, not only will you learn more about one of the most lucrative industries in the world but also better understand the concept of beauty.

Taught by Riya Valaulikar

Image by Mathew Schwartz

Modern Life in Ancient Rome

Flora wakes up in her apartment next to her husband, a firefighter. She prays, washes her face,
puts on makeup, and does her hair with hair curlers. Then Flora opens the window to greet the
day. The sounds of construction, traffic, and kids in the road remind her that she’s living in a city
of a million people. This sounds like a modern scene, but it could just as well have taken place in
ancient Rome. This course will explore what life was like for the Romans, the technologies that
supported Roman lifestyle, and the way they built the society and world around them. We will
examine how this experience differed along class and gender lines, and many of the ethical
problems underlaying Roman society such as human exploitation and the destruction of nature.
Finally, we will compare ancient life to modern life. Are we dealing with the same problems as
the Romans 2,000 years later? You may be surprised with how similar your life is to a Roman...

Taught by Sean Silvia and Zachary Gee

Image by camilo jimenez

Science and Society

More than just another subject, science is a way of life that encourages us to ask questions. From an everyday perspective, we can ponder why cup ramen tastes so addicting or how to use psychology to improve our test-taking skills. From a broader view, we can contemplate how to tackle climate change or how the Covid-19 vaccine can protect the global population from a raging pandemic. In a world that is becoming increasingly complex, scientific knowledge empowers us to find solutions to issues that impact everything from our day-to-day lives to the fate of human existence on planet Earth. The stakes have never been higher. Join us as we explore our world through a scientific lens, develop our scientific curiosities, and shape ourselves into well-informed global citizens. The only requirement for this class is an appetite for knowledge!

Taught by Yinan Su and Jason Tsoi

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