Design

At MIT, applying theories and skills through hands-on projects has been an educational theme from the very beginning—one which takes unique shape in forge, foundry, and glassblowing activities in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE). This week, MIT celebrated new opportunities in this area. On Monday, the renovated space was reopened as the W. David Kingery Ceramics and Glass Laboratory and the Merton C. Flemings Materials Processing Laboratory, thanks to the generosity of several generous donors.

In the updated facilities, additional space and equipment allows for more participation at all levels, something that students and alumni alike who vie for the chance to use the labs appreciate.

04-14-15_glasslab_chrismoore_bw_crop

Chris Moore (left) working in the glass lab in the 1990s.

Chris Moore ’90, PhD ’96, was one of the lucky students who got to spend countless hours in the glass lab and helped make it what it is today. Moore started at the glass lab in January 1987 when he took a course during IAP and became one of the labs most supportive and active volunteers.

“There was a lot of interest in glassblowing glasses at MIT so I worked with Professor Michael Cima to rebuild the space with new equipment that better suited glassblowing. I took classes and was involved in building and maintaining equipment, cleaning factory-scrap glass before putting it in the furnace, and worked as Ms. Hazelgrove’s assistant one afternoon a week for more experience. I stayed at MIT until 1996, earning a bachelor’s and a Ph.D. in physics and was involved in the glass lab during my entire MIT career.

“Being a physicist, I was very interested in the physics and optics of the process and in particular in the process of glassblowing rather than just the completed pieces. Having the opportunity to imagine interesting and beautiful creations using the optical properties of the glass and then solving the physical challenges of making them happen in glass, gave me practice in integrated design and problem solving that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else in my education. I also have enjoyed the tight teamwork required in glassblowing and have made lifelong friendships in the lab.”

Moore, a former astrophysicist and veteran data science leader, is chief analytics officer at True Fit and continues his involvement in the glass lab, including helping to run the annual Pumpkin Patch event.

See the new space in action in a video from the School of Engineering.

Read more about the renovation of the Materials Processing Lab and the Ceramics and Glass Lab.

{ 0 comments }

Mosely works with Yongquan Lu, co-president of OrigaMIT

During the MIT project, Mosely works with Yongquan Lu, co-president of OrigaMIT. Video: Melanie Gonick.

A Menger Sponge is the answer. MIT’s origami team, OrigaMIT, which made one out of 50,000 business cards, defines it as a mathematical fractal formed by iteratively removing the middle cross-sections of a cube. Their effort is special because it helped complete an international effort to recreate a Megamenger and because the level-3 version was first designed and built by origami artist Jeannine Mosely SM ’79, EE ’80, PhD ’84.

Watch a video about their project, completing a level-3 Menger sponge—that measured ~54 inches to each side—thanks to the help of Mosely and the students, faculty, and staff who stopped by to fold last fall.

So what was Mosely’s role in constructing the level-3 Menger Sponge?

Mosely learned how to fold modular origami cubes out of business cards in 1994 from a verbal description in an email. Most modular origami designs involve tucking flaps into pockets in order to the link the units together, but the business card cube has only flaps and no pockets and is stable only when all of the flaps are on the outside of the model, she says. Then she had an insight while watching her seven-year-old son make and play with cubes.

“I realized that the corners of the flaps could be tucked under each other to link the cubes together. So you could build any shape you could imagine out of enough of them. I also observed that you could use the same unit to cover the flaps on the external faces of your model, to add pattern or color to the surface.”

By gathering obsolete business cards from colleagues, Mosely accumulated several hundred thousand cards. Then she decided to build a level-3 approximation of a Menger Sponge, a fractal shape named for its discoverer, Karl Menger. It’s an approximate rendering because a true fractal has an infinitesimal degree of detail, she says.

preparing for a 2006 exhibit.

Mosely takes a break when re-assembling eight separate sections for a 2006 exhibition at Machine Project, an LA art gallery. Photo: Margaret Wertheim, Institute For Figuring.

She estimated the project would require about 66,000 cards and take 800 person-hours to build. It took much longer.

“I decided to build it as a group project so that I could spread the joy of origami, math, and engineering around and get help building it. I taught classes and workshops at various schools, the MIT Museum, the Boston Science Museum, at origami conventions and festivals, always collecting cubes and larger modules for the finished sponge.”

Even then, with raising two children and working full time, the project took from 1994 to 2005.

Why do business cards work so well for this type of origami? The size, shape, and stiffness work well for three-dimensional projects. And they are easy to fold.

“The ratio of the sides of an American business card is 1.75:1. But 1.75 is very close to the square root of 3 (1.732) which is the arctangent of 60 degrees. This means that it is very easy to fold equilateral triangles in a business card. Just fold two opposite corners to touch each other and you will see what I mean. There are dozens of things you can do with equilateral triangles.”

Dr. Mosely’s current work as an origami artist includes the creation in 2008 of a model of the Worcester’s Union Station, with 300 local school children and 100 Worcester Polytechnic Institute students, in time for the New Year’s Eve celebration. The train station incorporated around 60,000 business cards and was 10′ wide, 7′ deep and 6′ tall.

Learn more about Jeannine Mosely and about paperfolding at MIT

{ 1 comment }

Design and Manufacturing 1—better known as 2.007, one of MIT’s iconic courses—requires students to create small robots to complete a specific task. Skills learned in 2.007 helped Logan Munro ’07, design and create Ringly, a ring that uses vibration and lights to alert wearers to their smartphone notifications. “My Course 2 expertise was invaluable early in designing. Machining from 2.670 and 2.007 helped make the product and 2.000 to critically think about how the product should work,” he says.

Ringly comes in multiple styles. Photo: Ringly

Munro, a co-founder of Ringly, explains that the is simple—a user’s ring will light up and vibrate to notify them of alerts such as phone calls and text messages. Bluetooth technology works to wirelessly send notifications from phone to ring, so Ringly wearers don’t have to keep their phone at arm’s reach. “The goal is for technology to be discreetly integrated into our lives,” Munro explains.

Though Munro didn’t imagine he would be creating and designing jewelry after MIT, he says Ringly matches his interest. “I have always been interested in consumer products, and jewelry is the ultimate consumer-driven market,” he says. “With Ringly, we are taking a product that is traditionally used to express our personality and style and adding functionality.”

RINGLY3

Ringly offers different notifications for different apps. Photo: Ringly

Ringly allows users to set different notification light colors and vibrations for several types of alerts. Users can also choose to receive alerts from apps like Uber, sending users a notification when their requested ride is outside. All this functionality comes in a ring with a gemstone measured at 14×19 mm. Munro explains this challenge of fitting technology into a small, stylish space motivates him.  “Applying an additional layer of functionality with some very difficult engineering is what drives me, and I couldn’t be happier with the outcome,” he says.

Ringly currently offers multiple styles of the ring for pre-order with some styles already sold out.

{ 0 comments }

The United States Postal Service recently unveiled a new stamp commemorating the work of MIT alumnus Robert Robinson Taylor, considered the nation’s first academically trained African-American architect and the great-grandfather of Valerie Jarrett of the Obama Administration. Read more in a Slice post on Taylor.

Taylor is not the first alumnus to be honored as the face of American postage. Here’s a list of other alumni and MIT-affiliated notables that have also decorated our mail:

Credit: National Postal Museum

Buzz Aldrin ScD ’63: While the first stamp celebrating the Apollo 11 moon landing only featured Neil Armstrong, a 20-year anniversary stamp issued in 1989 honors both Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin ScD ’63, the second man to walk on the moon. Prior to Apollo 11, Aldrin served on the Gemini 12 mission and as a US Air Force jet fighter pilot during the Korean War. Aldrin ranks fourth in a recent Business Insider article highlighting MIT’s most successful alumni.

Credit: National Postal Museum

Credit: National Postal Museum

 

George Eastman: While not an alumnus, Eastman was a great benefactor of MIT having donated $7.5 million to the Institute in the early 1900s. He founded Eastman Kodak Company and invented the Kodak camera, widely credited with ushering in a new age of amateur photography. Visit a plaque celebrating Eastman in front of Room 6-120 to take part in an 80-year MIT tradition—rubbing his nose for good luck.

Credit: National Postal Museum

Credit: National Postal Museum

 

Richard Feynman ’39: As the 1965 Nobel Prize recipient in physics, Richard Feynman ‘39 is called a pioneer in Quantum Electrodynamics. His invention of the Feynman Diagrams revolutionized theoretical physics and were celebrated on the pop television show Big Bang Theory. Check out Slice next month for a larger story on Feynman’s quest to visit Tannu Tuva and his love of stamps.

Credit: National Postal Museum

Credit: National Postal Museum

I.M. Pei ’40: The Louvre Glass Pyramid and Entrance, Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art, and Boston’s Hancock Tower all have been designed by I.M. Pei ‘40. His work on the East Building of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., was commemorated as part of a 2005 stamp collection titled the “12 Masterworks of Modern American Architecture.” On MIT’s campus, his firm is responsible for the Green Building (54), as well as Landau (66), Dreyfuss (18), and Wiesner (E15) Buildings.

The Postal Service rolls out upwards of 30 new stamps each year, and the public can petition a subject to be considered. The Citizen’s Stamp Advisory Committee, appointed by the Postmaster General, reviews stamp ideas and recommends which subjects to consider. All subjects must be of Americans that have made contributions to society or events or themes of “widespread national appeal and significance that showcase our nation’s inclusiveness,” according to the US Postal Service site.

What alumnus or alumna would you like to see on your mail? Tell us in the comments below or share on our Facebook page.

{ 0 comments }

Taylor’s photograph on the stamp was taken circa 1890, when he was an MIT student. Photo: MIT Museum.

Taylor’s photograph on the stamp was taken circa 1890, when he was an MIT student. Photo: MIT Museum.

The United States Post Office is honoring one of MIT’s own today, issuing a stamp to honor architect and educator Robert Robinson Taylor. He is MIT’s first African-American graduate and is believed to be the country’s first academically trained black architect.

Taylor’s lifework included supervising the design and construction of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama while also overseeing the school’s programs in industrial education and the building trades.

MIT President L. Rafael Reif addressed Taylor’s contributions at the dedication ceremony at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, DC, on Feb. 12.

“As we honor the legacy of Robert Taylor, today’s ceremony reminds us that he was a builder…not only of structures, but of communities…and an architect who designed not only a campus of national importance…but a more promising future for generations to come,” said President Reif. “Robert Robinson Taylor truly represents the best of MIT.”

Taylor, who was born in North Carolina in 1868, learned carpentry and construction from his father, a former slave. After working as a construction foreman a few years, he moved to Boston in 1888, and threw himself into his MIT studies. He took as many as ten courses per semester, earning honors in trigonometry, architectural history, differential calculus, and applied mechanics.

After graduating from MIT’s architecture school, the first in the US, he accepted an offer from educator and activist Booker T. Washington to work at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.

At Tuskegee, he had an enormous impact—first by establishing a beginning architecture curriculum, which helped graduates enter collegiate architecture programs or win entry-level positions in architectural offices. He raised the sights of African-American students to look beyond working as builders and carpenters to taking on professional roles as designers and architects. His second major contribution at Tuskegee was designing and building major campus structures over a 30-year period, creating state-of-the-art buildings where cabins once stood.

Beyond Tuskegee, Taylor designed academic and commercial buildings and helped found the Booker Washington Agricultural and Industrial Institute in Liberia. After he retired in 1932, Taylor was involved in public service and advocacy until his death in 1942.

Taylor addressed MIT’s 50th anniversary in 1911, summarizing what his MIT training helped bring to Tuskegee: “the love of doing things correctly, of putting logical ways of thinking into the humblest task, of studying surrounding conditions, of soil, of climate, of materials and of using them to the best advantage in contributing to build up the immediate community in which the persons live, and in this way increasing the power and grandeur of the nation.”

Tuskegee named its architecture school after Taylor in 2010.

{ 1 comment }

Ice shells become strong and artful objects.

Ice shells become strong and artful objects.

When MIT students are out in freezing weather making things, anything can happen. During Independent Activities Period (IAP), they made structurally complex objects using the power of frozen water-soaked fabric. Watch the video Forces Frozen: Structures made from frozen fabrics.

The three-day workshop drew students from many disciplines.

The three-day workshop drew students from many disciplines.

The IAP workshop, titled Forces Frozen, pushed the boundaries of ice shells through design, experimentation, and fabrication. Led by Assistant Professor Caitlin Mueller ’07, SM ’14, PhD ’14 and post-doc Corentin Fivet, the workshop invited 30 students to research and design ice/fabric forms and the methods for making them on the first day and then spend the second day building formwork and rigging systems.  On the final day, they constructed an outdoor landscape of frozen structures and shared the work in a public exhibition.

The projects focus “on thin shell structures that get their strength not from the materials they are using or a thickness of material, but from the form they are using, just like an eggshell,” says Mueller. “The shells that we are designing are inspired by a twentieth-century Swiss structural designer, Heinz Isler…he was really inspired by nature and the forms that come out naturally through the forces of gravity. This is a really fun opportunity to combine physics, mechanics, and science with creating something that is almost artistic.”

Learn more on the Forces Frozen tumblr and a BetaBoston article.

You can try this at home.

{ 0 comments }

Karen Kho MCP '95

Karen Kho MCP ’95

Over the past decade, Karen Kho MCP ’95 has helped make tens of thousands of homes in the San Francisco Bay Area more energy- and resource-efficient. And her green building programs and strategies are spreading across California.

In 2003, after trying policy-oriented work at federal agencies, Kho joined StopWaste, a public agency that develops and manages resource conservation programs for Alameda County and its 14 municipalities. She’s now a senior program manager, a role that suits her hands-on orientation and strategic goals.

“We’re a public agency, but we incubate projects like a nonprofit foundation,” explains Kho, who holds a bachelor’s degree in development studies from the University of California, Berkeley, in addition to her Institute master’s in city planning. “We look for strategic opportunities and develop tools and resources that can move stakeholders.”

Those stakeholders include architects, developers, contractors, city building officials, landlords, real estate agents, and residents—all of whom have different agendas. The fragmented economics of property development, ownership, and management mean that matters like energy efficiency and water usage are often low priorities. “Nobody has ownership of the big considerations,” she says.

Hoping to address this situation, Kho was one of the moving forces behind StopWaste’s 2005 launch of the GreenPoint Rated home certification system, which has now assessed more than 40,000 homes statewide for energy and resource conservation, indoor air quality, and other factors, much as LEED certification does for commercial projects. It’s now administered by a dedicated nonprofit, and a recent study found that green-labeled homes in California command a 6 percent price premium, which has boosted acceptance among skeptical developers and agents.

“I was proud of that, not just because of the study results, but because of having helped develop a credible and accessible standard for green homes,” says Kho, adding that the proliferation of local ordinances helped prompt California to adopt the nation’s first statewide green building code in 2010.

Last July, her team worked with property owners, managers, and contractors to launch a rebate program for resource-conserving upgrades to multifamily homes. “Within six months we were over-enrolled, and now over 32,000 units have been or will be upgraded,” she says.

Kho, husband Robert Schorlemmer, and their two children often visit family in Spain and Germany. She sings mezzo-soprano in small choral and a cappella groups but says her real passion is for “shaping the built environment.” She adds, “That’s what led me into green building.”

{ 0 comments }

Five years ago, Haiti was flattened by a devastating earthquake. Back in Cambridge, Paul Fallon ’77, SM ’81, MArch ’81 felt a special need to act in his role as an architect.

He attributes the massive loss of life to faulty architecture and poor construction practices. “So many people died because of the buildings,” said Fallon in a new Alumni Association video. “That’s something that I felt a personal responsibility for.”

Fallon, who had been to Haiti many times through volunteer service trips, visited again after the earthquake. “Their world was difficult before the earthquake, and it is difficult now, albeit in different ways,” he said in a November Boston Globe Magazine article.

Fallon helped design and build the Be Like Brit orphanage, named after Britney Gengel, an American casualty of the earthquake who had been on a service trip. In her last text to her parents, she told them of her dream to build an orphanage in Haiti, and her parents set about to build one in her honor. The orphanage is now home to 66 children.

Mission of Hope

Students at the Mission of Hope School. Credit: Mission of Hope International

He also served as the architect and helped train local workers in earthquake-resistant building practices for the construction of the Mission of Hope School. Eight of the school’s 12 classrooms have already been built teaching 500 children, with space for 100 more students once the school is completed.

Beyond permanent structures, Fallon has built permanent relationships. While working on one project he met Dieunison, a young Haitian recently orphaned by the quake and living on the streets.

“I was adopted by a little kid,” he jokes in a recent MIT Alum Books podcast. Fallon now supports Dieunison and his half-brother Dieurie in attending school. “What serves them and Haiti well is the opportunity for people with their energy, instincts, and capabilities to develop educational and training skills and stay in Haiti and help to improve Haiti,” he said.

Dieunison and Dieurie

Dieunison and his half-brother Dieurie

Fallon is not the only MIT community member sharing his skills to rebuild Haiti. Students developed Konbit, an open source platform for NGOs to find local workers. And many students and alumni continue to volunteer in service projects aiding in rebuilding efforts through MIT’s Public Service Center.

Listen to Paul Fallon discuss his new book Architecture by Moonlight in the MIT Alum Books podcast and at tonight’s 6:30 p.m. talk at the Main Cambridge Public Library. Watch Fallon talk about his experiences in Haiti in a new MITAA video produced by Brielle Domings.

{ 1 comment }

FitBark_Romero_01

Canine Advisory Board member Romero models the device. Photo: FitBark

When activity trackers and wearable devices like Fitbit first became popular, many people jumped at the chance to measure their steps, quality of sleep, and calories burned. Davide Rossi MBA ’10, however, wondered how these devices could help him care for his dog. “I thought if it can be helpful for me, of course, it can be even more helpful for somebody who doesn’t talk,” Rossi remembers.

This idea compelled him to create FitBark, a wearable activity tracker for dogs. Like human devices, FitBark tracks time moving, at rest, and general behavior patterns, but the dog data is used in different ways. “The activity data set can tell you a lot more than just counting steps. You can see what kind of day your dog is having,” Rossi explains.

FitBark-Activity-Monitor-and-Mobile-App

FitBark works in connection with your smartphone. Photo: FitBark

The FitBark device, which snaps onto a dog’s collar, tracks your dog around the clock and transmits data to a smartphone app when it is in range of the FitBark. The data each FitBark device collects is compared to a baseline for your dog and other dogs of similar breeds and ages. From this information, Rossi says, you can see if your dog needs more exercise, is feeling sick, or is acting differently. “It’s possible to identify how your dog is reacting to a new product or drug or even if your dog has a medical problem,” he says.

Outside of tracking the health of your dog, Rossi says that the social aspect of the FitBark excites him most. “Social means having an app where I, my sister, my wife, and my vet can all comment and collaborate on hard data around the health of my dog,” he says.

Rossi says he has seen interest in FitBark from individual dog owners, doggie daycares, and pet supply stores. For now FitBark is marketed for dogs, but that doesn’t mean other pet owners aren’t taking note, “I’ve received requests for cats, bunnies, horses, cows, falcons, chickens, and for penguins,” Rossi laughs. “The device is ideally for dogs, but other pet owners may see benefits,” he says.

FitBark will be an exhibitor at the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) this week. Sadly, no dogs are allowed on the show floor.

{ 2 comments }

Update: Read all questions and Brian’s answers to the concluded Reddit Ask Me Anything here.

Are you an aspiring maker? Curious about 3D printing or want advice on getting your own designs off the ground? Get your questions answered by Brian Chan ’02, SM ’04, PhD ‘09, an origami master whose website tagline is “maker of anything,” in today’s Reddit Ask Me Anything (IAmA) at 4:00 p.m. EST. Visit this page now and post your questions.

About Brian Chan
Brian Chan, a lecturer at MIT’s Hobby Shop, entrepreneur, and freelance engineer, has more than 20 years of experience as an artist and craftsperson. Known for his work in creating award-winning, original origami designs, he’s on a new mission: dispel some of the hype around 3D printing and encourage fans to gain a deeper understanding of design principals.

Chan has channeled his childhood interest in bugs and anthropods—ask him about his three pet crayfish—into a business selling 3D-printed crustaceans, sea turtles, beetles, and venus comb murexes. “My 3D articulated crustaceans are a way to celebrate the awesomeness of their real counterparts,” he said in a recent Shapeways article.

Chan folded the MIT mascot for an MIT origami competition

Chan folded the MIT mascot for an MIT origami competition

Chan is also combining his skillset in 3D printing with bladesmithing and blacksmithing experience in designing costume armor. His design focus on nature has given him a new perspective on designing science fiction costumes like Iron Man. “Articulated armor has a lot in common with insect exoskeletons!” he said in Shapeways. He’s currently building a custom filament-based printer with hopes of printing an affordable and complete armor suit out of nylon.

Chan (right) in an Iron Man costume with Groot, a life form from outerspace

Chan (right) in an Iron Man costume with Groot, a life form from outerspace

He designs and builds foldable music instruments like the ukulele and traditional Japanese Shamisen instrument as well.

How do I participate in the IAmA?
In order to ask questions or vote on questions you would like answered, you will need to log in to Reddit or set up an account. Then follow these four easy steps:

1. Click on the link we’ll be posting on this page and social media. You can also look on the www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/new page and click on the link that way once the IAmA goes live at 4:00 p.m. EST.

2. Read what your fellow Redditers are asking. Like a question or want to ask your own? Click on the upvoting arrow to the left of the question. Questions with the most upvotes rise to the top of the page and are most likely to be answered.

Sea Turtle 3D modeled by Chan.

Sea Turtle 3D modeled by Chan.

3. Don’t see your question asked? Ask your own! At the top of the IAmA page directly below the introductory text, you’ll see a blank box. Type your question, and click save. It will automatically appear in the thread and the community can upvote the question if they like it.

4. What do I ask? Anything at all. Check out the text of Brian’s bio for more information about his background and to get you thinking about good questions to ask.

*Please note: Reddit hosts both IAmA’s and AMA’s. Brian Chan will be participating in an IAmA—I am a maker of anything, ask me anything.

 

{ 0 comments }