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MIT’s admissions teaser features the new Iron Man — a black female superhero

One of Marvel’s newest superheroes is delivering to eager high school students news about whether they’ll become part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s latest batch of incoming freshmen.

Each year, the Cambridge school releases a creative video to announce when admissions decisions will be posted online, and at what time.

This year’s video features the character Riri Williams, a black teenage girl who the comic book franchise announced in July would take over for Tony Stark as the next “Iron Man.” Williams, who in the Marvel universe is an MIT student, is known as “Ironheart.”


The dramatic three-minute video, posted Tuesday, shows Williams building the iconic red-and-gold Iron Man suit on campus between classes.

Once the armor is complete, the fictional Williams (she is played by an actual MIT student in the video) steps inside the suit and soars into the sky from the roof of a school building.

After flying around the campus in spectacular fashion, bobbing and weaving between buildings, she dives into the school’s Great Dome and greets Stu Schmill, MIT’s dean of admissions and student financial services. It’s in Schmill’s office that Williams picks up a tube containing student acceptance letters.

After attaching the tube to her armor, Williams launches back out of the dome and embarks on her mission.

The words “Not all heroes wear capes — but some carry tubes,” then flashes across the screen.

Decision day at MIT falls on “Pi Day,” or March 14. Spelled out, that’s 3.14 — a play on the first few digits of the mathematical constant pi, which is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.

Notifications will be posted at 6:28 p.m. In math terms, 6.28 is known as “Tau,” or two-times pi.

MIT received around 20,000 applications this year. The school estimates it will admit fewer than 8 percent of student hopefuls.


Schmill said when the school learned last year that Marvel’s new Iron Man character was a student at MIT, the college couldn’t resist putting her in the video.

“Marvel uses MIT in their comic, so we figured, given we are MIT, it would be ok” to feature her, he said.

In the Iron Man films, Stark, who is played by Robert Downey Jr., is billed as a genius who graduated as a teenager from MIT.

In the comic, Williams catches Stark’s attention when she builds her own suit in her dorm. Naturally, the superhero torch is passed.

Schmill said not only do the videos notify applicants about the school’s plans to release admissions decisions online — they also show new students that there’s more to MIT than burying your nose in books.

“We like to have fun, do things in a creative way, and that’s really — it captures the spirit of this place and what students love to do,” he said.

Last year, MIT’s admissions video featured a “Decisions Droid” that resembled BB8, the rolling robot from “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” And in 2015, drones took flight from the Great Dome to drop decision letters at students’ doors.

Schmill has starred in most of the student-produced videos. When asked which one he likes best, he said it’s too hard to pick.

“I do happen to love this video,” he said. “I thought this particular one was really great, and again, the students were fabulous.”


Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @steveannear.