In this section, Prof. Demaine describes the roles of other individuals who helped shape the structure and content of the course.
In general, I work a lot with my father. He comes from a rather different background and more from the visual arts side. As such, we have taught each other a lot: he has taught me in art and I have taught him in mathematics and computer science. We have written around 50 papers together on the mathematics side, and we have made a number of sculptures together over the past several years. We really enjoy working together, and he is generally supportive of what I want to do. In particular, when we started this endeavor to video-record all of our lectures, he was instrumental in getting that part working. To be specific, he is the cameraman for all of the lecture videos that we have shot. I have tried to get TA’s to do camerawork, and it is surprisingly difficult to stay focused at all times and imagine where a student would want to be looking in the classroom at any given moment. My father basically picked that up with very little prior experience and intuitively figured out how to be a good cameraman.
In a more unofficial sense, he always acts as a sounding board. I might pitch ideas of what I want to do in class and even go to him to figure out what the right material is for a particular class session. This was especially true for 6.849 because he is more engaged in that research area. Even as we were trying to figure out how to implement the inverted lecture, I worked with him to figure out what topics would be interesting to cover. He has helped me find a lot of great examples, videos, and images of folding applications that play a key part in forming the content of the class sessions. In that sense, he has been a pretty big partner for this course.
Guest lecturer Tomohiro Tachi exhibiting several origami models during his talk about his area of research. Image courtesy of Erik Demaine and Tomohiro Tachi.
Because the focus of 6.849 is very specific, there are only a few really amazing experts in the field. Many of them visit me throughout the semester as we work together on research. Whenever someone was around for a week that had 6.849 class sessions, I invited them to do a guest lecture because they were the expert on a particular aspect of folding. It was great that the students could hear it straight from the best in the field instead of my reinterpretation of the work. Even locally, there are some really star individuals such as Jason Ku, who is currently a PhD student at MIT and also one of the best origami designers in the Boston area. Not all of these guests came at the right timing in terms of how the lecture videos lined up, but I learned as an educator to deal with that. It is really nice for the students to see other perspectives and to meet the other key players in the folding area. I have my particular perspectives and biases that are reflected in how I present the course material, so it is more enriching for the students to also see what other people are doing.