A scientific Black Friday tradition: families set off massive chain reaction at MIT

Looking for a new, more creative postprandial Thanksgiving tradition? Every year, the MIT Museum organizes a fun, family-oriented event called the Friday After Thanksgiving (FAT) Chain Reaction. More than a dozen teams construct a Rube Goldberg-esque chain reaction that usually involves a succession of dominoes, toy cars, and paper planes. Each team provides one link in the chain reaction that eventually sets off a grand finale reaction built by the kinetic sculptor Arthur Ganson. The gymnasium at MIT fills up with spectators and participants. Here’s my story about last year’s event, and the information about attending (or participating) this afternoon.


Last year’s theme was the sonnet. This year, the theme is crystal, and the teams are coming from all over, including the Sparkle Ninjas from Waban and Owen’s Hexbug Maze from Quincy. It looks like team Rubicon X from Arlington is on the roster again, this year. Here’s what Tricia Nguyen said about the event last year:

“It’s for those of us who don’t want to go to a shopping mall and fight the crowds,’’ said Tricia Nguyen of Arlington, stepping away as her family members – team Rubicon X – worked frenetically on a machine that carried a golf ball up a steep climb, then utilized a funnel, a loop-the-loop, and vibrating robotic bugs to push their ball toward the next team. “This is what nerds do on the day after Thanksgiving.’’

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