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MIT marks 100 years in Cambridge with “Crossing the Charles” parade and evening celebration.
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MIT's "Crossing the Charles" procession and competition was a featured part of the Institute's Moving Day festivities, May 7, 2016. Here, grand marshall Oliver Smoot '62 (right) rides at the front of the parade.
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Caption: MIT's "Crossing the Charles" procession and competition was a featured part of the Institute's Moving Day festivities, May 7, 2016. Here, grand marshall Oliver Smoot '62 (right) rides at the front of the parade.
Credits: Photo: Andy Ryan
Many dance styles were on display during the Moving Day Pageant, from traditional to modern.
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Caption: Many dance styles were on display during the Moving Day Pageant, from traditional to modern.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
Battle of the bobbleheads: Figures representing some of MIT’s most renowned alumni and faculty duked it out as champions of either “mens” (“mind”), the theoretical side of MIT, or “manus” (“hand”), the practical, engineering side.
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Caption: Battle of the bobbleheads: Figures representing some of MIT’s most renowned alumni and faculty duked it out as champions of either “mens” (“mind”), the theoretical side of MIT, or “manus” (“hand”), the practical, engineering side.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
MIT President L. Rafael Reif asks Mens and Manus if they would like to take a selfie.
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Caption: MIT President L. Rafael Reif asks Mens and Manus if they would like to take a selfie.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
A troupe of dancing umbrellas appeared to ward off the rain as Killian Court lit up with fireworks and colorful computer-generated art.
Download Image
Caption: A troupe of dancing umbrellas appeared to ward off the rain as Killian Court lit up with fireworks and colorful computer-generated art.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
At pageant’s end, onlookers were treated to a spectacular fireworks display over the Charles River.
Download Image
Caption: At pageant’s end, onlookers were treated to a spectacular fireworks display over the Charles River.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
Movers and shakers: Community members get their groove on at Moving Day dance parties across the Institute.
Download Image
Caption: Movers and shakers: Community members get their groove on at Moving Day dance parties across the Institute.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
MIT Moving Day ended with fun and games for everyone in attendance.
Download Image
Caption: MIT Moving Day ended with fun and games for everyone in attendance.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
Participants in the Moving Day Pageant were treated to a grand show filled with dance, song, lights, humor, and love for the MIT spirit.
Download Image
Caption: Participants in the Moving Day Pageant were treated to a grand show filled with dance, song, lights, humor, and love for the MIT spirit.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
Community members enjoyed dance parties featuring music from different generations in the 100-year history of MIT in Cambridge.
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Caption: Community members enjoyed dance parties featuring music from different generations in the 100-year history of MIT in Cambridge.
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
Rosa Lafer-Sousa, an MIT researcher, poses in front of a giant mock up of her brain.
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Caption: Rosa Lafer-Sousa, an MIT researcher, poses in front of a giant mock up of her brain.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons speaks at the event.
Download Image
Caption: Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons speaks at the event.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
Martha Eddison, special assistant to the president at MIT, dressed as suffragist and philanthropist Katherine Dexter McCormick ’04.
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Caption: Martha Eddison, special assistant to the president at MIT, dressed as suffragist and philanthropist Katherine Dexter McCormick ’04.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
MIT President L. Rafael Reif speaks after the procession and competition.
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Caption: MIT President L. Rafael Reif speaks after the procession and competition.
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
Download Image
Credits: Photo: Casey Atkins
Peter Miller ’62 (left) and Oliver Smoot ’62 (right) shake hands with spectators, while in the grand marshall’s car.
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Caption: Peter Miller ’62 (left) and Oliver Smoot ’62 (right) shake hands with spectators, while in the grand marshall’s car.
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
Download Image
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
Participants demonstrate leading-edge wheelchair technologies.
Download Image
Caption: Participants demonstrate leading-edge wheelchair technologies.
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
MIT’s robotic cheetah marches along the bridge.
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Caption: MIT’s robotic cheetah marches along the bridge.
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
Students march with MIT flags.
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Caption: Students march with MIT flags.
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
Download Image
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
Download Image
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
Download Image
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
Students pose with MIT mascot “Tim the Beaver.”
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Caption: Students pose with MIT mascot “Tim the Beaver.”
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
MIT’s Casino Rueda salsa dancing club.
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Caption: MIT’s Casino Rueda salsa dancing club.
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
Download Image
Credits: Photo: Jake Belcher
MIT President L. Rafael Reif high-fives a young spectator.
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Caption: MIT President L. Rafael Reif high-fives a young spectator.
Credits: Photo: Dominick Reuter
The “Bucentaur 2016” makes its way across the Charles River.
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Caption: The “Bucentaur 2016” makes its way across the Charles River.
Credits: Photo: Dominick Reuter
The Pappalardo Lab’s award-winning entry in the "Crossing the Charles" competition featured an obstacle course designed for robots, from MIT Course 2.007.
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Caption: The Pappalardo Lab’s award-winning entry in the "Crossing the Charles" competition featured an obstacle course designed for robots, from MIT Course 2.007.
Credits: Photo: Dominick Reuter
A team member jumps off the MIT “Dome Raft,” a project led by Stanislaw Kowalcyzk, a student at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
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Caption: A team member jumps off the MIT “Dome Raft,” a project led by Stanislaw Kowalcyzk, a student at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Credits: Photo: Dominick Reuter
MIT students and staff members rappelled off the bridge over the Charles River, as part of the “Crossing the Charles” procession and competition.
Download Image
Caption: MIT students and staff members rappelled off the bridge over the Charles River, as part of the “Crossing the Charles” procession and competition.
Credits: Photo: Dominick Reuter
Download Image
Credits: Photo: Dominick Reuter
Oliver Smoot ’62, whose body length was used to measure the bridge over the Charles River near MIT, in a noted 1958 prank by MIT students, demonstrates how he did it. Smoot served as grand marshall in the “Crossing the Charles” procession and competition.
Download Image
Caption: Oliver Smoot ’62, whose body length was used to measure the bridge over the Charles River near MIT, in a noted 1958 prank by MIT students, demonstrates how he did it. Smoot served as grand marshall in the “Crossing the Charles” procession and competition.
Credits: Photo: Andy Ryan
MIT's "Crossing the Charles" procession and competition was a featured part of the Institute's Moving Day festivities, May 7, 2016. Here, grand marshall Oliver Smoot '62 (right) rides at the front of the parade.
Download Image
Caption: MIT's "Crossing the Charles" procession and competition was a featured part of the Institute's Moving Day festivities, May 7, 2016. Here, grand marshall Oliver Smoot '62 (right) rides at the front of the parade.
Credits: Photo: Andy Ryan
Download Image
Credits: Photo: Andy Ryan
Download Image
Credits: Photo: Andy Ryan

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MIT's "Crossing the Charles" procession and competition was a featured part of the Institute's Moving Day festivities, May 7, 2016. Here, grand marshal Oliver Smoot '62 (right) rides at the front of the parade.
Caption:
MIT's "Crossing the Charles" procession and competition was a featured part of the Institute's Moving Day festivities, May 7, 2016. Here, grand marshal Oliver Smoot '62 (right) rides at the front of the parade.
Credits:
Photo: Andy Ryan
The Pappalardo Lab’s award-winning entry in the "Crossing the Charles" competition featured an obstacle course designed for robots, from MIT Course 2.007.
Caption:
The Pappalardo Lab’s award-winning entry in the "Crossing the Charles" competition featured an obstacle course designed for robots, from MIT Course 2.007.
Credits:
Photo: Dominick Reuter
MIT students and staff members rappelled off the bridge over the Charles River, as part of the “Crossing the Charles” procession and competition.
Caption:
MIT students and staff members rappelled off the bridge over the Charles River, as part of the “Crossing the Charles” procession and competition.
Credits:
Photo: Dominick Reuter
MIT President L. Rafael Reif high-fives a young spectator.
Caption:
MIT President L. Rafael Reif high-fives a young spectator.
Credits:
Photo: Dominick Reuter
The “Bucentaur 2016” makes its way across the Charles River.
Caption:
The “Bucentaur 2016” makes its way across the Charles River.
Credits:
Photo: Dominick Reuter
Credits:
Photo: Dominick Reuter
A team member jumps off the MIT “Dome Raft,” a project led by Stanislaw Kowalcyzk, a student at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Caption:
A team member jumps off the MIT “Dome Raft,” a project led by Stanislaw Kowalcyzk, a student at the MIT Sloan School of Management.
Credits:
Photo: Dominick Reuter
Oliver Smoot ’62, whose body length was used to measure the bridge over the Charles River near MIT, in a noted 1958 prank by MIT students, demonstrates how he did it. Smoot served as grand marshal in the “Crossing the Charles” procession and competition.
Caption:
Oliver Smoot ’62, whose body length was used to measure the bridge over the Charles River near MIT, in a noted 1958 prank by MIT students, demonstrates how he did it. Smoot served as grand marshal in the “Crossing the Charles” procession and competition.
Credits:
Photo: Andy Ryan
Credits:
Photo: Andy Ryan
Credits:
Photo: Andy Ryan
Rosa Lafer-Sousa, an MIT researcher, poses in front of a giant mock up of her brain.
Caption:
Rosa Lafer-Sousa, an MIT researcher, poses in front of a giant mock up of her brain.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons speaks at the event.
Caption:
Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons speaks at the event.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
MIT President L. Rafael Reif speaks after the procession and competition.
Caption:
MIT President L. Rafael Reif speaks after the procession and competition.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
Martha Eddison Sieniewicz, special assistant to the president at MIT, dressed as suffragist and philanthropist Katharine Dexter McCormick, Class of 1904.
Caption:
Martha Eddison Sieniewicz, special assistant to the president at MIT, dressed as suffragist and philanthropist Katharine Dexter McCormick, Class of 1904.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
Peter Miller ’62 (left) and Oliver Smoot ’62 (right) shake hands with spectators, while in the grand marshal’s car.
Caption:
Peter Miller ’62 (left) and Oliver Smoot ’62 (right) shake hands with spectators, while in the grand marshal’s car.
Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
Participants demonstrate leading-edge wheelchair technologies.
Caption:
Participants demonstrate leading-edge wheelchair technologies.
Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
MIT’s robotic cheetah marches along the bridge.
Caption:
MIT’s robotic cheetah marches along the bridge.
Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
Students march with MIT flags.
Caption:
Students march with MIT flags.
Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
Students pose with MIT mascot “Tim the Beaver.”
Caption:
Students pose with MIT mascot “Tim the Beaver.”
Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
MIT’s Casino Rueda salsa dancing club.
Caption:
MIT’s Casino Rueda salsa dancing club.
Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
The Moving Day Pageant began with a parade of drummers and oar-wielding rowers — a nod to MIT’s crossing of the Charles River a century prior.
Caption:
The Moving Day Pageant began with a parade of drummers and oar-wielding rowers — a nod to MIT’s crossing of the Charles River a century prior.
Credits:
Photo: Maia Weinstock
Many dance styles were on display during the Moving Day Pageant, from traditional to modern.
Caption:
Many dance styles were on display during the Moving Day Pageant, from traditional to modern.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
Battle of the bobbleheads: Figures representing some of MIT’s most renowned alumni and faculty duked it out as champions of either “mens” (“mind”), the theoretical side of MIT, or “manus” (“hand”), the practical, engineering side.
Caption:
Battle of the bobbleheads: Figures representing some of MIT’s most renowned alumni and faculty duked it out as champions of either “mens” (“mind”), the theoretical side of MIT, or “manus” (“hand”), the practical, engineering side.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
MIT President L. Rafael Reif asks Mens and Manus if they would like to take a selfie.
Caption:
MIT President L. Rafael Reif asks Mens and Manus if they would like to take a selfie.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
Participants in the Moving Day Pageant were treated to a grand show filled with dance, song, lights, humor, and love for the MIT spirit.
Caption:
Participants in the Moving Day Pageant were treated to a grand show filled with dance, song, lights, humor, and love for the MIT spirit.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
A troupe of dancing umbrellas appeared to ward off the rain as Killian Court lit up with fireworks and colorful computer-generated art.
Caption:
A troupe of dancing umbrellas appeared to ward off the rain as Killian Court lit up with fireworks and colorful computer-generated art.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
At pageant’s end, onlookers were treated to a spectacular fireworks display over the Charles River.
Caption:
At pageant’s end, onlookers were treated to a spectacular fireworks display over the Charles River.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
Movers and shakers: Community members get their groove on at Moving Day dance parties across the Institute.
Caption:
Movers and shakers: Community members get their groove on at Moving Day dance parties across the Institute.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins
Community members enjoyed dance parties featuring music from different generations in the 100-year history of MIT in Cambridge.
Caption:
Community members enjoyed dance parties featuring music from different generations in the 100-year history of MIT in Cambridge.

Credits:
Photo: Jake Belcher
MIT Moving Day ended with fun and games for everyone in attendance.
Caption:
MIT Moving Day ended with fun and games for everyone in attendance.
Credits:
Photo: Casey Atkins

They arrived via water and over land, by raft and hydrofoil, on foot and in experimental vehicles. Some paddled. Some danced. Some walked alongside robots. In all, hundreds of members of the MIT community on Saturday celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Institute’s move from Boston into Cambridge, Massachusetts with a unique procession across the Charles River, fueled by humor and creativity.

The “Crossing the Charles” parade and competition, the centerpiece of MIT’s May 7 Moving Day celebrations, took place simultaneously in the water and on the bridge that carries Massachusetts Avenue over the river.

In the river, a festive flotilla of watercraft journeyed across, including an electric hydrofoil craft, a motorized swarm of kayaks, a bamboo raft, and a pedal-powered floating platform in the shape of the dome from MIT’s main building.

Simultaneously, a colorful parade of students, faculty, staff, and alumni — plus a robotic cheetah — marched across the bridge, some with large floats in tow. Neuroscientists transported an 8-foot-high brain model, made out of plywood and set on wheels; MIT Libraries staff carried a fabric “river on sticks,” adorned with books and a laptop; undergraduates guided a “StrandBeaver,” a massive kinetic sculpture; and MIT’s Casino Rueda salsa dancers, a student club, stopped to perform. Hundreds of alumni marched across at the end of the parade.

“The diversity of the MIT community was on full display,” said John Ochsendorf, professor of civil and environmental engineering and architecture, and a faculty co-chair of the event. “You saw it all, from the brain to the bamboo.”

At an award ceremony following the crossing, MIT President L. Rafael Reif said he wanted to “thank the city of Cambridge for their generosity for 100 years” and joked that the city resembled a tolerant host enduring the visit of a long-running house guest.

“We are glad you stayed,” responded Cambridge Mayor Denise Simmons, in remarks following Reif’s comments.

Simmons also called MIT “a blessing and not a burden” and, in the spirit of the day, noted how useful it was to “keep a sense of humor” intact. Nearby, a 30-foot-high replica of a stone megalith bobbed in the river while a mechanical goose sauntered across Memorial Drive.

A noodle raft, a cheetah, and Oliver Smoot, of course

Moving Day, and the parade across the Charles River, was created in homage to MIT’s ceremonial 1916 crossing of the river, when the Institute’s charter was transported across on a barge, the Bucentaur. The 2016 celebration continued into the evening, with a multimedia extravaganza in Killian Court, followed by dance parties around campus whose themes traced 100 years of music and culture.

Moving Day is part of the series of “MIT 2016” celebrations that have been ongoing this year, commemorating MIT’s first century in Cambridge and launching the Institute’s next century of engagement with the world. MIT was founded in 1861, in Boston, before relocating to the Kendall Square area of Cambridge.

The idea behind the river-crossing event was to “let people do whatever they want and express their technical creativity,” said Annette Hosoi, a professor of mechanical engineering, and the other faculty co-chair of the event. “And people responded — really the whole community.”

Indeed, the parade and competition consisted of 26 entries on the water and 28 groups crossing the bridge. The more conventional water entries included boats from the MIT varsity sailing team and star rower Veronica Toro ’16, an Olympic hopeful. There were also folding kayaks, a “noodle raft” lashed together from pool noodles and kickboards, and a jet-powered boat from MIT’s International Design Center.

“All the watercraft stayed afloat,” Ochsendorf noted approvingly.

(For the record: Participants wore lifejackets and safety personnel were on hand.)

Up on the bridge, members of MIT’s Emergency Medical Services drove an ambulance that is dedicated to the memory of MIT police officer Sean Collier, while experimental vehicles of all kinds dotted the parade. MIT students and alumni demonstrated an aluminum-powered car, cutting-edge wheelchair designs, and a bamboo bicycle, among other entries.

Meanwhile MIT’s robotic cheetah, which can run at over 13 miles per hour, strolled across at a leisurely pace.

The parade’s grand marshal was Oliver Smoot ’62, a familiar name in local lore. As multitudes of area runners and walkers have noticed, the sidewalk over the bridge is marked in increments of “Smoots” — after a 1958 MIT prank in which Smoot’s friends got him to lie down, repeatedly, until they had crossed the entire bridge. For the record, Smoot is 5 feet 7 inches tall, and the bridge is 364.4 Smoots long.

Before the parade, Smoot reenacted lying down on the bridge’s sidewalk but noted that it had been easier for him to do so as an undergraduate. “We were faster and lighter then,” he joked.

Awards gala

A panel of six members of the MIT administration serving as judges gave out four awards to the participants, after what MIT Provost Martin A. Schmidt termed “careful deliberation.”

Brain researchers from three different MIT institutes and departments won the soon-to-be-prestigious Da Vinci Award, given for “creativity and wonder,” for their supersized brain model. Students from Course 4.302 (Foundations in Arts, Design and Spatial Practices) took home the Bosworth Award for “beauty and elegant design,” for their large zooplankton-motif structure, “Time Spirit and the Masquerade of Power,” which also featured printed images from MIT’s campus and history.

Researchers from MIT’s Pappalardo Lab won the Tech Pioneer Award for the “most innovative” craft in the flotilla; they transformed an obstacle course for robots from Course 2.007 (Design and Manufacturing) into a floating vessel. And the MIT Libraries team won the Beaver Spirit Award for the entry best exemplifying school spirit.

The brain researchers’ team, led by Julie Pryor of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, built their float over two months, with 50 people participating. The plywood vehicle, called “A Beautiful Mind,” consists of 22 coronal “slices” of the brain, based on the personal data of team member Rosa Lafer-Sousa, a researcher in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences (BCS).

Ben Bartelle, also of BCS, personally cut the plywood slices at MIT’s hobby shop.

“We’re MRI people,” Bartelle told MIT News. “We see slices like that all the time.”

So what is it like to see a giant plywood replica of one’s brain, on wheels, crossing the bridge over the Charles River?

“It’s pretty special,” Lafer-Sousa acknowledged. “I couldn’t sleep last night. It felt a little like Christmas.”

Mens, manus, cor: A spectacle on Killian Court

As dusk later fell over the Institute, several thousand students, faculty, staff, and friends filed into MIT’s Killian Court to witness a spectacular pageant of singing, dancing, computer art, and the embodiment of the MIT spirit.

With an illuminated MIT dome serving as a beacon for anyone within eyeshot, the event began with a procession of students bearing oars, a symbol of the 1916 river-crossing, and a parade of drummers welcoming onlookers to the fête.

Over the next hour, characters representing the living spirits of MIT’s motto, “mens et manus” (“mind and hand”) — and the two individuals on the MIT seal — guided the audience through the story of MIT from its humble beginnings in Boston through the Institute’s move to Cambridge a century ago and into the present. “Mens,” representing the theoretical, scientific, humanistic elements of MIT life, and “Manus,” representing the practical applications of these disciplines, spatted over what they thought was the most important aspect of life at MIT: theory or practice.

The two took turns making their case, bringing out, for example, human-sized bobbleheads featuring some of the most noted MIT faculty and alumni from each “side” of the mind-or-hand debate and recounting successes over the previous century — from the 19th-century application of chemical engineering to the new science of home economics by Ellen Swallow Richards to the 2015 detection of gravitational waves led by MIT Professor Emeritus Rainer Weiss. Guided by a robot voiced by MIT alumnus and “Car Talk” host Ray Magliozzi, the duo eventually realized that only with both mind and hand working in unison — and with the addition of “cor,” or “heart” — could MIT have developed into the thriving institution it is today.

Appropriately for the day’s weather — which had a distinctly wintry feel, with chilly temperatures, a brisk wind, and some rain — the event’s finale featured an undulating umbrella dance, which led, finally, into an impressive fireworks display over the Charles River. When it was all over, a roar of applause and hooting filled Killian Court, as attendees grabbed their own umbrellas and made their way to various dance parties hosted across the Institute to cap the day’s festivities.

Oliver Smoot, who has retired to Southern California, noted that he, for one, wasn’t bothered by the elements. “It’s all been great,” he said. And his friend Peter Miller ’62, who rode with Smoot in the grand marshal’s car during the afternoon parade, explained how he had ignored the cold: “From the warmth of all the people waving, and watching, and jumping up and down.”

Maia Weinstock contributed to this story.

Press Mentions

Boston.com

A Boston.com slideshow highlights photographs of MIT’s Moving Day celebrations, which featured a parade of boats, floats and other creations crossing the Charles River by land and water. The parade commemorated the ceremonial journey of MIT’s charter, which was transported across the river by a barge in 1916. 

Boston Herald

MIT celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Institute’s move from Boston to Cambridge with an innovative parade by land and water, the Boston Herald reports. “MIT alumnus Oliver Smoot, class of ’62 — of the “smoot” unit of measurement — led the parade over the bridge as Grand Marshal, and Car Talk’s Ray Magliozzi, class of ’73, was on hand.”

Boston Globe

Boston Globe reporter Nicole Fleming recounts MIT’s Moving Day celebrations, which featured a parade to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Institute’s move from Boston to Cambridge. “From rafts and fantastical wheeled contraptions to salsa dancers and puppets, a colorful array of MIT creations crossed the Charles River -- by land and by water."

Boston 25 News

FOX 25’s Kerry Kavanaugh reports on MIT’s Moving Day parade, which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Institute’s move from Boston to Cambridge. “More than 50 boats, floats and vehicles designed by students, faculty and alumni took part,” Kavanaugh reports. 

Boston.com

Prof. John Ochsendorf speaks with Boston.com reporter Allison Pohle about MIT’s Moving Day celebrations. Ocsendorf notes that the celebrations are a “once in a lifetime opportunity to celebrate MIT and bring it to the larger community.”

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