Science in Mind

A sight to befold: Thanksgiving origami at MIT

MIT doesn’t do anything halfway, and one example is the Origami Club and its figurines.
Dominick Reuter
MIT doesn’t do anything halfway, and one example is the Origami Club and its figurines.

Call it a new Thanksgiving tradition: before the feasting, the football, and the Black Friday free-for-all came the folding. The MIT Origami Club folded some intricate Thanksgiving and fall decor: a paper turkey, a plump pumpkin, a cornucopia, and other figurines in fall colors.

Eight people spent 30 hours to make the festive tableau of paper miniatures. One of their former members even invented a custom turkey design.

One thing I’ve always liked about MIT is that students don’t seem to be afraid to plunge all the way in — not just to their studies, but also their hobbies and interests. I spent a year there getting a master’s degree, but I felt more like a tourist given free range than a true denizen of the university.


It very well could just be the cross-section of students and alums I’ve met, but there’s a kind of obsessional quality and a willingness to think big that I’ve always admired. That spirit is often on fine display with the school’s legendary pranks (see: police cruiser on top of the dome). But those deep passions show up on a smaller scale, too.

Whenever I casually hang out with a friend who trained as an engineer there, we seem to end up taking something apart and rebuilding it. He doesn’t travel without his own personal soldering iron, and he sees things that most people perceive as an inconvenience as a grand challenge. At a party, I once saw a guy who had rigged up his bed almost like an elevator to lower down from the ceiling by remote control. I can’t help but love a place where people take something people do, like fold paper into shapes, and turn it into an art, a skill, and an epic achievement — beautifully on display in this “Origami(t) Thanksgiving.”

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @carolynyjohnson.