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ChemLab Boot Camp: MIT OpenCourseWare launches reality series
MIT NEWS OFFICE, ChemLab Boot Camp: MIT OpenCourseWare launches reality series, Aug 14, 2012

Each year, groups of MIT freshmen are introduced to MIT’s laboratory environment through a four-week January course called 5.301 Introductory Lab Techniques. In January 2012, a film crew followed 14 students as they struggled to complete experiments required in the class. The stakes are high — students who pass the class are guaranteed a job in an MIT research lab.

This fall, MIT OpenCourseWare will share videos that follow these students as they face the challenges of learning chemistry the MIT way through a unique series called ChemLab Boot Camp. The episodes will be released each week starting in September, and announced on the ChemLab Boot Camp e-mail list.

The two- to five-minute episodes, shot in a style that mixes the geek fun of open educational resources with the immediacy of reality TV, brings viewers closer to the experience of being an MIT student than ever before. The videos follow the students as they struggle to master lab techniques such as growing crystals and synthesizing antibiotics. The videos are part of a broader effort at MIT funded by The Dow Chemical Company to foster interest in science and engineering careers.

“Despite the critical need for more and more people trained in chemistry and chemical engineering, the fields have not been as attractive as they should be,” said MIT chemistry professor John Essigmann in commenting on the idea behind the series. “Dow and MIT have mobilized our collective resources to try to show high school and college students what it is like to be a chemist. We hope to show the human side of our field and to inspire young people to want to become the next generation of chemists.”

The MIT-Dow Outreach Fund is designed to develop and support the science and engineering careers of underrepresented minorities and women. A five-year, $2 million commitment from Dow, the Outreach Fund is intended to support science education at all levels.