Project-based lab class equips students with skills for a lifetime: A look into 1.101

April 13th, 2017Undergraduate Student Life

By René Andrés García Franceschini It’s almost a month until the semester ends, and all four teams are fully immersed in their final projects. Our materials took a bit longer to arrive, so while we have already prototyped and designed our experiment, we are a bit behind on the actual manufacturing. And as it turns out, our project requires a lot: we’re making a modular building made of metal boxes, designed to mimic a dorm in Amsterdam composed of repurposed shipping containers. When our materials finally arrive, my three teammates and I form what Professor Reis referred to as a “human assembly line,” quickly going through the process of cutting the metal, folding it into a box, shaving off the corners, putting a heat source and a thermistor, and sealing each container. I remember thinking wow, I have never worked this efficiently in my life. And yet, doing all that work was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in a class. 1.101 Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering Design I is an introductory project-based lab class taught by Professor Pedro Reis, alongside Stephen Rudolph and our TA Ali Irani. The goal of the class is to envision Boston in 2030, and implement some sort of improvement that you would like to see in the city. If it sounds vague, it’s because the class is intentionally designed to allow you and your teammates to go wild on whatever idea you come up with as a team. I, alongside my [...]

By René Andrés García Franceschini

It’s almost a month until the semester ends, and all four teams are fully immersed in their final projects. Our materials took a bit longer to arrive, so while we have already prototyped and designed our experiment, we are a bit behind on the actual manufacturing. And as it turns out, our project requires a lot: we’re making a modular building made of metal boxes, designed to mimic a dorm in Amsterdam composed of repurposed shipping containers. When our materials finally arrive, my three teammates and I form what Professor Reis referred to as a “human assembly line,” quickly going through the process of cutting the metal, folding it into a box, shaving off the corners, putting a heat source and a thermistor, and sealing each container. I remember thinking wow, I have never worked this efficiently in my life. And yet, doing all that work was some of the most fun I’ve ever had in a class.

1.101 Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering Design I is an introductory project-based lab class taught by Professor Pedro Reis, alongside Stephen Rudolph and our TA Ali Irani. The goal of the class is to envision Boston in 2030, and implement some sort of improvement that you would like to see in the city. If it sounds vague, it’s because the class is intentionally designed to allow you and your teammates to go wild on whatever idea you come up with as a team.

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I, alongside my teammates Florence Lo, Angela Leong and Christine Langston, worked on two projects. For our design project, we wanted to create an extension of the MBTA subway system that would make it more efficient, while also providing increased access to disadvantaged communities in Boston. Taking the highly successful Moscow subway system and the Medellín cable cars as inspiration, we came up with the Magenta Line, which would go in a circular (rather than radial) direction around Boston, connecting Roxbury and Dorchester to the rest of the T complex.

For our lab project, we worked on the aforementioned modular building. We wanted to arrange our building in different configurations (for example, a more compact multistory building versus a single story “ring” arrangement) and quantify how heat dissipated based on the different arrangements. The idea was that arrangements that lose heat more slowly could be employed in cold weather conditions, and thus be more energy efficient.DSC_0660

For most classes I have taken in my four semesters at MIT, I can maybe take out a topic or two at most that I know will be essential in the future. What makes 1.101 so impressive is the sheer number of very tangible skills and experiences that I will carry with me always. Taking our project from idea to reality was just as instructive as the hours spent discussing and compromising as a team, or learning how to properly use shop tools, or even building our own professional web-based portfolio that we can use for the rest of our professional careers.

This is in no small part thanks to the amazing teaching staff, who do a great job of guiding you through the whole design process while allowing you to take ownership in your project. It was immensely satisfying for us to get clear results for our heat dissipation project: as it turns out, more compact arrangements of buildings lose heat much more slowly even at such a small scale!

1.101 is a very “MIT” class, in that it forces you to go loose with your ideas and come up with a real product in the end. But more than that, it imparts many tools that prove useful later, whether you are brainstorming new ideas or applying for a job. It is a challenging class, but that never stops it from always feeling worth it. Or, perhaps just as importantly, it never stops it from feeling fun.

What’s next? Get a glimpse into 1.102 (Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering Design II)

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Drawing inspiration from Roman structures: A glimpse into 1.102

April 5th, 2017Undergraduate Student Life

By David Wu In The Ancient World: Rome (21H.132), a Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) class I am taking this semester, we recently studied the last 200 years of the Roman Republic. We learned that during this time, Rome grew from a prosperous city-state to a nation that controlled much of the Italian peninsula to the massive empire that ruled much of modern day Spain, Greece, and Northern Africa. These military success brought riches to Rome. While for the victorious leaders, usually the consuls, a life of fame and glory awaited. However, nothing demonstrated Rome’s power like the extravagant structures built with the newfound riches. The aqueducts, Roman Forum, and Coliseum are all examples of public works projects that still stand today after nearly 2000 years. Important questions facing researchers today include “what about the design and material composition of these structures allows them to stand for so long and how to address their present state of weakening?” Last summer, through ONE-MA3, taught by Professor Admir Masic, I applied these questions to at-risk columns in Pompeii. We spoke with conservationists at Pompeii, who gave us insight into their attempts to monitor and predict the evolution of the health of groups of columns that had begun to show signs of cracking. The factors they discussed contributed to their decisions on how to best preserve the columns, while also protecting the millions of tourists that visited the ancient city each year. This semester, the focus of 1.102 (Introduction to Civil and [...]

By David Wu

In The Ancient World: Rome (21H.132), a Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) class I am taking this semester, we recently studied the last 200 years of the Roman Republic. We learned that during this time, Rome grew from a prosperous city-state to a nation that controlled much of the Italian peninsula to the massive empire that ruled much of modern day Spain, Greece, and Northern Africa. These military success brought riches to Rome. While for the victorious leaders, usually the consuls, a life of fame and glory awaited. However, nothing demonstrated Rome’s power like the extravagant structures built with the newfound riches.

The aqueducts, Roman Forum, and Coliseum are all examples of public works projects that still stand today after nearly 2000 years. Important questions facing researchers today include “what about the design and material composition of these structures allows them to stand for so long and how to address their present state of weakening?”

Last summer, through ONE-MA3, taught by Professor Admir Masic, I applied these questions to at-risk columns in Pompeii. We spoke with conservationists at Pompeii, who gave us insight into their attempts to monitor and predict the evolution of the health of groups of columns that had begun to show signs of cracking. The factors they discussed contributed to their decisions on how to best preserve the columns, while also protecting the millions of tourists that visited the ancient city each year.

This semester, the focus of 1.102 (Introduction to Civil and Environmental Engineering Design II), an undergrad class also taught by Professor Masic, is to draw inspiration for designs from nature (bioinspiration). The idea is to understand the relationship between the nano-scale and meso-scale level properties of biological materials and the performance (i.e. stiffness, porosity, strength) of these materials.

Years of evolution have optimized biological materials for specific tasks such as breaking bark for a woodpecker’s beak or filtration for a sea sponge. If one can understand how nature designed these features, he or she can hopefully use these design elements to achieve a similar performance in man-made materials.

Most recently we addressed this idea in a column design competition. We were split into four groups, and each group’s goal was to create the strongest bioinspired column. Each column had to be less than 1” wide, 6” tall, and .5 a kilogram in mass. Every group was to create their design in a CAD software, and the columns would then be 3D printed out of a mix of rubber and plastic.

One group sought inspiration from the structure of bamboo, another from the rings of a tree, and the other from the hierarchical structure of plant cells. My group was inspired by a previous spinal injury to Nadia, one of our team members.

Our design consisted of two types of interlocking modular pieces. One was a taller solid plastic cylinder similar to bone and the other was a shorter rubber piece mimicking the disks between vertebrae.

On the day of the tests, our column performed horribly for the compressive strength test, only able to measure a compressive strength of 2.85 MPa (compared to the top group 20.2 MPa). This put us in dead last, however our column exhibited behavior unlike any of the other columns.

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When put under compression, our column bent and curved at the rubber disks until the rubber finally tore. Interestingly, our column returned almost completely to its normal upright state when the compressive force was removed.

These behaviors make sense if you consider the properties of the biological material we were inspired by. The spine does support the significant weight of our heads, but it is designed for movement like running, jumping, and climbing.  The flexibility of the spine allows us (well some of us) to touch our toes or throw a baseball, and it is the reason that we return to our normal height after bending over.

Structure Test

In our presentation to the class about our design and our column’s performance, we highlighted that while our design failed for the compressive strength test, our results were still meaningful. Perhaps, our model could be applied for structures that didn’t support a lot of weight, but were located in areas that faced frequent earthquakes.

Even so, the results of our column’s performance did confirm the traits that we already knew about the spine. It is significant to be able to link these two ideas.  Experiences like this will continue to address the questions of “Why and how are the design and performance of materials linked?”.

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Annual CEE Research Speed Dating Day highlights diversity of research

March 31st, 20172017 News in Brief

The 7th Annual CEE Research Speed Dating Day brought together undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, research scientists, and faculty members to share their research and to inspire new ideas. This year, additional community members were able to participate through electronic poster sessions, including freshmen who completed the mini-UROP program over IAP. Read more about the event, organized by Professors Tal Cohen and Serguei Saavedra, here.

The 7th Annual CEE Research Speed Dating Day brought together undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, research scientists, and faculty members to share their research and to inspire new ideas. This year, additional community members were able to participate through electronic poster sessions, including freshmen who completed the mini-UROP program over IAP. Read more about the event, organized by Professors Tal Cohen and Serguei Saavedra, here.

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Professor Lydia Bourouiba featured in Science Friday and HHMI’s series “Breakthrough: Connecting the drops”

March 30th, 20172017 News in Brief

Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Assistant Professor Lydia Bourouiba was featured in the third episode of Science Friday and Howard Hughes Medical Institute's series "Breakthrough: Portraits of Women in Science." The Science Friday and HHMI series on Women in Science features six distinguished scientists and their research. The aim of the series is to increase the public’s access to science and inspire and increase the numbers of minorities in STEM. The third episode highlighting Bourouiba’s research and her path to MIT, "Breakthrough: Connecting the drops," can be watched here or below.

Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Career Development Assistant Professor Lydia Bourouiba was featured in the third episode of Science Friday and Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s series “Breakthrough: Portraits of Women in Science.” The Science Friday and HHMI series on Women in Science features six distinguished scientists and their research. The aim of the series is to increase the public’s access to science and inspire and increase the numbers of minorities in STEM. The third episode highlighting Bourouiba’s research and her path to MIT, “Breakthrough: Connecting the drops,” can be watched here or below.

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New research shows tiny marine organism holds clues to the evolution of entire ecosystems

March 27th, 20172017 News in Brief

Research carried out by Rogier Braakman, a CEE Postdoc affiliated with the labs of Institute Professor Penny Chisholm and Professor Mick Follows of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), shows that the evolution of Prochlorococcus, the smallest and most abundant photosynthetic cell, can provide insight into the evolution of ecosystems. The research was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. More information can be found on MIT News.

Research carried out by Rogier Braakman, a CEE Postdoc affiliated with the labs of Institute Professor Penny Chisholm and Professor Mick Follows of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), shows that the evolution of Prochlorococcus, the smallest and most abundant photosynthetic cell, can provide insight into the evolution of ecosystems. The research was recently published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. More information can be found on MIT News.

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MIT and East Japan Railway Company (JR East) celebrate 25 years of collaboration

March 27th, 20172017 News in Brief

Professor Joseph Sussman was recently honored for his 25 years of service as JR East Professor, a title he had held since 1991 when the MIT – JR East professorship began. The celebration also recognized the newly appointed JR East Professor Ali Jadbabaie. Read more about the partnership on MIT News.

Professor Joseph Sussman was recently honored for his 25 years of service as JR East Professor, a title he had held since 1991 when the MIT – JR East professorship began. The celebration also recognized the newly appointed JR East Professor Ali Jadbabaie. Read more about the partnership on MIT News.

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