MIT News - Arts - Design - Architecture - Glass Lab - List Visual Arts Center MIT News is dedicated to communicating to the media and the public the news and achievements of the students, faculty, staff and the greater MIT community. en Wed, 04 Mar 2020 23:59:59 -0500 New approach to sustainable building takes shape in Boston A five-story mixed-use structure in Roxbury represents a new kind of net-zero-energy building, made from wood. Wed, 04 Mar 2020 23:59:59 -0500 David L. Chandler | MIT News Office <p>A new building about to take shape in Boston’s Roxbury area could, its designers hope, herald a new way of building residential structures in cities.</p> <p>Designed by architects from MIT and the design and construction firm Placetailor, the five-story building’s structure will be made from cross-laminated timber (CLT), which eliminates most of the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with standard building materials. It will be assembled on site mostly from factory-built subunits, and it will be so energy-efficient that its net carbon emissions will be essentially zero.</p> <p>Most attempts to quantify a building’s greenhouse gas contributions focus on the building’s operations, especially its heating and cooling systems. But the materials used in a building’s construction, especially steel and concrete, are also major sources of carbon emissions and need to be included in any realistic comparison of different types of construction.</p> <p>Wood construction has tended to be limited to single-family houses or smaller apartment buildings with just a few units, narrowing the impact that it can have in urban areas. But recent developments — involving the production of large-scale wood components, known as mass timber; the use of techniques such as cross-laminated timber; and changes in U.S. building codes — now make it possible to extend wood’s reach into much larger buildings, potentially up to 18 stories high.</p> <p>Several recent buildings in Europe have been pushing these limits, and now a few larger wooden buildings are beginning to take shape in the U.S. as well. The new project in Boston will be one of the largest such residential buildings in the U.S. to date, as well as one of the most innovative, thanks to its construction methods.</p> <p>Described as a Passive House Demonstration Project, the Boston building will consist of 14 residential units of various sizes, along with a ground-floor co-working space for the community. The building was designed by Generate Architecture and Technologies, a startup company out of MIT and Harvard University, headed by John Klein, in partnership with Placetailor, a design, development, and construction company that has specialized in building net-zero-energy and carbon-neutral buildings for more than a decade in the Boston area.</p> <p>Klein, who has been a principal investigator in MIT’s Department of Architecture and now serves as CEO of Generate, says that large buildings made from mass timber and assembled using the kit-of-parts approach he and his colleagues have been developing have a number of potential advantages over conventionally built structures of similar dimensions. For starters, even when factoring in the energy used in felling, transporting, assembling, and finishing the structural lumber pieces, the total carbon emissions produced would be less than half that of a comparable building made with conventional steel or concrete. Klein, along with collaborators from engineering firm BuroHappold Engineering and ecological market development firm Olifant, will be presenting a detailed analysis of these lifecycle emissions comparisons later this year at the annual Passive and Low Energy Architecture (<a href="">PLEA</a>) conference in A Coruña, Spain, whose theme this year is “planning post-carbon cities.”</p> <p>For that study, Klein and his co-authors modeled nine different versions of an eight-story mass-timber building, along with one steel and one concrete version of the building, all with the same overall scale and specifications. Their analysis showed that materials for the steel-based building produced the most greenhouse emissions; the concrete version produced 8 percent less than that; and one version of the mass-timber building produced 53 percent less.</p> <p>The first question people tend to ask about the idea of building tall structures out of wood is: What about fire? But Klein says this question has been thoroughly studied, and tests have shown that, in fact, a mass-timber building retains its structural strength longer than a comparable steel-framed building. That’s because the large timber elements, typically a foot thick or more, are made by gluing together several layers of conventional dimensioned lumber. These will char on the outside when exposed to fire, but the charred layer actually provides good insulation and protects the wood for an extended period. Steel buildings, by contrast, can collapse suddenly when the temperature of the fire approaches steel’s melting point and causes it to soften.</p> <p>The kit-based approach that Generate and Placetailor have developed, which the team calls Model-C, means that in designing a new building, it’s possible to use a series of preconfigured modules, assembled in different ways, to create a wide variety of structures of different sizes and for different uses, much like assembling a toy structure out of LEGO blocks. These subunits can be built in factories in a standardized process and then trucked to the site and bolted together. This process can reduce the impact of weather by keeping much of the fabrication process indoors in a controlled environment, while minimizing the construction time on site and thus reducing the construction’s impact on the neighborhood.</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/" style="width: 500px; height: 333px;" /></p> <p><em style="font-size: 10px;">Animation depicts the process of assembling the mass-timber building from a set of factory-built components. Courtesy of&nbsp;Generate Architecture and Technologies</em></p> <p>“It’s a way to rapidly deploy these kinds of projects through a standardized system,” Klein says. “It’s a way to build rapidly in cities, using an aesthetic that embraces offsite industrial construction.”</p> <p>Because the thick wood structural elements are naturally very good insulators, the Roxbury building’s energy needs for heating and cooling are reduced compared to conventional construction, Klein says. They also produce very good acoustic insulation for its occupants. In addition, the building is designed to have solar panels on its roof, which will help to offset the building’s energy use.</p> <p>The team won a wood innovation grant in 2018 from the U.S. Forest Service, to develop a mass-timber based system for midscale housing developments. The new Boston building will be the first demonstration project for the system they developed.</p> <p>“It’s really a system, not a one-off prototype,” Klein says. With the on-site assembly of factory-built modules, which includes fully assembled bathrooms with the plumbing in place, he says the basic structure of the building can be completed in only about one week per floor.</p> <p>“We're all aware of the need for an immediate transition to a zero-carbon economy, and the building sector is a prime target,” says Andres Bernal SM ’13, Placetailor’s director of architecture. “As a company that has delivered only zero-carbon buildings for over a decade, we're very excited to be working with CLT/mass timber as an option for scaling up our approach and sharing the kit-of-parts and lessons learned with the rest of the Boston community.”</p> <p>With U.S. building codes now allowing for mass timber buildings of up to 18 stories, Klein hopes that this building will mark the beginning of a new boom in wood-based or hybrid construction, which he says could help to provide a market for large-scale sustainable forestry, as well as for sustainable, net-zero energy housing.</p> <p>“We see it as very competitive with concrete and steel for buildings of between eight and 12 stories,” he says. Such buildings, he adds, are likely to have great appeal, especially to younger generations, because “sustainability is very important to them. This provides solutions for developers, that have a real market differentiation.”</p> <p>He adds that Boston has set a goal of building thousands of new units of housing, and also a goal of making the city carbon-neutral. “Here’s a solution that does both,” he says.</p> <p>The project team included&nbsp;Evan Smith and Colin Booth at Placetailor Development; in addition to Klein<strong>,</strong>&nbsp;Zlatan Sehovic, Chris Weaver, John Fechtel, Jaehun Woo, and Clarence Yi-Hsien Lee at Generate Design; Andres Bernal, Michelangelo LaTona, Travis Anderson, and Elizabeth Hauver at Placetailor Design<strong>; </strong>Laura Jolly and Evan Smith at Placetailor Construction<strong>; </strong>Paul Richardson and Wolf Mangelsdorf at Burohappold<strong>; </strong>Sonia Barrantes and Jacob Staub at Ripcord Engineering; and<strong> </strong>Brian Kuhn and Caitlin Gamache at Code Red.</p> Architect's rendering shows the new mass-timber residential building that will soon begin construction in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood.Images: Generate Architecture and TechnologiesResearch, Architecture, Building, Sustainability, Emissions, Cities, Energy, Greenhouse gases, Carbon, Startups, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), School of Architecture and Planning Integrating electronics onto physical prototypes In place of flat “breadboards,” 3D-printed CurveBoards enable easier testing of circuit design on electronics products. Tue, 03 Mar 2020 23:59:59 -0500 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office <p>MIT researchers have invented a way to integrate “breadboards” — flat platforms widely used for electronics prototyping — directly onto physical products. The aim is to provide a faster, easier way to test circuit functions and user interactions with products such as smart devices and flexible electronics.</p> <p>Breadboards are rectangular boards with arrays of pinholes drilled into the surface. Many of the holes have metal connections and contact points between them. Engineers can plug components of electronic systems — from basic circuits to full computer processors — into the pinholes where they want them to connect. Then, they can rapidly test, rearrange, and retest the components as needed.</p> <p>But breadboards have remained that same shape for decades. For that reason, it’s difficult to test how the electronics will look and feel on, say, wearables and various smart devices. Generally, people will first test circuits on traditional breadboards, then slap them onto a product prototype. If the circuit needs to be modified, it’s back to the breadboard for testing, and so on.</p> <p>In a paper being presented at CHI (Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems), the researchers describe “CurveBoards,” 3D-printed objects with the structure and function of a breadboard integrated onto their surfaces. Custom software automatically designs the objects, complete with distributed pinholes that can be filled with conductive silicone to test electronics. The end products are accurate representations of the real thing, but with breadboard surfaces.</p> <p>CurveBoards “preserve an object’s look and feel,” the researchers write in their paper, while enabling designers to try out component configurations and test interactive scenarios during prototyping iterations. In their work, the researchers printed CurveBoards for smart bracelets and watches, Frisbees, helmets, headphones, a teapot, and a flexible, wearable e-reader.</p> <p>“On breadboards, you prototype the function of a circuit. But you don’t have context of its form — how the electronics will be used in a real-world prototype environment,” says first author Junyi Zhu, a graduate student in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “Our idea is to fill this gap, and merge form and function testing in very early stage of prototyping an object. … &nbsp;CurveBoards essentially add an additional axis to the existing [three-dimensional] XYZ axes of the object — the ‘function’ axis.”</p> <p>Joining Zhu on the paper are CSAIL graduate students Lotta-Gili Blumberg, Martin Nisser, and Ethan Levi Carlson; Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) undergraduate students Jessica Ayeley Quaye and Xin Wen; former EECS undergraduate students Yunyi Zhu and Kevin Shum; and Stefanie Mueller, the X-Window Consortium Career Development Assistant Professor in EECS.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p><strong>Custom software and hardware</strong></p> <p>A core component of the CurveBoard is custom design-editing software. Users import a 3D model of an object. Then, they select the command “generate pinholes,” and the software automatically maps all pinholes uniformly across the object. Users then choose automatic or manual layouts for connectivity channels. The automatic option lets users explore a different layout of connections across all pinholes with the click of a button. For manual layouts, interactive tools can be used to select groups of pinholes and indicate the type of connection between them. The final design is exported to a file for 3D printing.</p> <p>When a 3D object is uploaded, the software essentially forces its shape into a “quadmesh” — where the object is represented as a bunch of small squares, each with individual parameters. In doing so, it creates a fixed spacing between the squares. Pinholes — which are cones, with the wide end on the surface and tapering down —&nbsp;will be placed at each point where the corners of the squares touch. For channel layouts, some geometric techniques ensure the chosen channels will connect the desired electrical components without crossing over one another.</p> <p>In their work, the researchers 3D printed objects using a flexible, durable, nonconductive silicone. To provide connectivity channels, they created a custom conductive silicone that can be syringed into the pinholes and then flows through the channels after printing. The silicone is a mixture of a silicone materials designed to have minimal electricity resistance, allowing various types electronics to function.</p> <p>To validate the CurveBoards, the researchers printed a variety of smart products. Headphones, for instance, came equipped with menu controls for speakers and music-streaming capabilities. An interactive bracelet included a digital display, LED, and photoresistor for heart-rate monitoring, and a step-counting sensor. A teapot included a small camera to track the tea’s color, as well as colored lights on the handle to indicate hot and cold areas. They also printed a wearable e-book reader with a flexible display.</p> <p><strong>Better, faster prototyping</strong></p> <p>In a user study, the team investigated the benefits of CurveBoards prototyping. They split six participants with varying prototyping experience into two sections: One used traditional breadboards and a 3D-printed object, and the other used only a CurveBoard of the object. Both sections designed the same prototype but switched back and forth between sections after completing designated tasks. In the end, five of six of the participants preferred prototyping with the CurveBoard. Feedback indicated the CurveBoards were overall faster and easier to work with.</p> <p>But CurveBoards are not designed to replace breadboards, the researchers say. Instead, they’d work particularly well as a so-called “midfidelity” step in the prototyping timeline, meaning between initial breadboard testing and the final product. “People love breadboards, and there are cases where they’re fine to use,” Zhu says. “This is for when you have an idea of the final object and want to see, say, how people interact with the product. It’s easier to have a CurveBoard instead of circuits stacked on top of a physical object.”</p> <p>Next, the researchers hope to design general templates of common objects, such as hats and bracelets. Right now, a new CurveBoard must built for each new object. Ready-made templates, however, would let designers quickly experiment with basic circuits and user interaction, before designing their specific CurveBoard.</p> <p>Additionally, the researchers want to move some early-stage prototyping steps entirely to the software side. The idea is that people can design and test circuits — and possibly user interaction — entirely on the 3D model generated by the software. After many iterations, they can 3D print a more finalized CurveBoard. “That way you’ll know exactly how it’ll work in the real world, enabling fast prototyping,” Zhu says. “That would be a more ‘high-fidelity’ step for prototyping.”</p> CurveBoards are 3D breadboards — which are commonly used to prototype circuits — that can be designed by custom software, 3D printed, and directly integrated into the surface of physical objects, such as smart watches, bracelets, helmets, headphones, and even flexible electronics. CurveBoards can give designers an additional prototyping technique to better evaluate how circuits will look and feel on physical products that users interact with.Image: Dishita Turakhia and Junyi ZhuResearch, Computer science and technology, 3-D printing, Design, Manufacturing, electronics, Computer graphics, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering QS World University Rankings rates MIT No. 1 in 12 subjects for 2020 Institute ranks second in five subject areas. Tue, 03 Mar 2020 19:01:01 -0500 MIT News Office <p>MIT has been honored with 12 No. 1 subject rankings in the QS World University Rankings for 2020.</p> <p>The Institute received a No. 1 ranking in the following QS subject areas: Architecture/Built Environment; Chemistry; Computer Science and Information Systems; Chemical Engineering; Civil and Structural Engineering; Electrical and Electronic Engineering; Mechanical, Aeronautical and Manufacturing Engineering; Linguistics; Materials Science; Mathematics; Physics and Astronomy; and Statistics and Operational Research.</p> <p>MIT also placed second in five subject areas: Accounting and Finance; Biological Sciences; Earth and Marine Sciences; Economics and Econometrics; and Environmental Sciences.</p> <p>Quacquarelli Symonds Limited subject rankings, published annually, are designed to help prospective students find the leading schools in their field of interest. Rankings are based on research quality and accomplishments, academic reputation, and graduate employment.</p> <p>MIT has been ranked as the No. 1 university in the world by QS World University Rankings for eight straight years.</p> Afternoon light streams into MIT’s Lobby 7.Image: Jake BelcherRankings, Computer science and technology, Linguistics, Chemical engineering, Civil and environmental engineering, Mechanical engineering, Chemistry, Materials science, Mathematics, Physics, Economics, EAPS, Business and management, Accounting, Finance, DMSE, School of Engineering, School of Science, School of Architecture and Planning, Sloan School of Management, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Architecture, Biology, Aeronautical and astronautical engineering Thirty-eight exceptional MIT students named 2020 Burchard Scholars Students expand intellectual horizons and leadership skills at dinner-seminars with MIT faculty.   Tue, 25 Feb 2020 12:50:01 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS) announced 38 exceptional sophomore and junior students as the new Burchard Scholars for 2020.</p> <p>The selective Burchard Scholars program, named in honor of John Ely Burchard, the first dean of SHASS, recognizes sophomores and juniors who have&nbsp;demonstrated outstanding abilities and academic excellence in&nbsp;some aspect of the humanistic fields — the humanities, arts, and social sciences — as well as in STEM fields.</p> <p>Over one calendar year, from February to December, the Burchards attend a series of dinner-seminars with distinguished MIT faculty, as well as cultural events in the Boston, Massachusetts, metropolitan area. The experiences provide a challenging, intellectual space in which the scholars further expand their intellectual horizons.</p> <p><strong>Excellence in both the humanistic and STEM fields</strong><br /> <br /> “The Burchard Scholars are an extraordinary group of MIT undergraduates who have demonstrated enthusiasm and aptitude for the humanities, social sciences, or arts,”&nbsp;says Margery Resnick, professor of literature and director of the Burchard program. “Selection is competitive, and the students who are chosen are thoughtful, smart, and grateful for the opportunity to discuss ideas with faculty and fellow students.”<br /> <br /> The scholars themselves represent a diverse swath of studies across the Institute. This year, the Burchards come from over a dozen different fields of study, among them biology, anthropology, mechanical engineering, management, and music. What binds the group together&nbsp;is a powerful&nbsp;curiosity about ideas. This year’s selection process was especially competitive, with 100 applicants vying for a spot.</p> <p><strong>Developing powerful skills</strong><br /> <br /> The Burchard Scholars program is designed to provide promising students a challenging and friendly arena in which to develop and hone skills in expressing, critiquing, and debating ideas with peers and mentors. The scholars learn respectful and adaptable approaches for engaging in complex intellectual discussions.&nbsp;</p> <p>Many of the MIT students who receive Rhodes, Marshall, and other major scholarships and fellowships are former Burchard Scholars. Most recently, senior Steven Truong, a 2019 Burchard Scholar, was awarded a Marshall Scholarship.</p> <p><strong>The 2020 Burchard Scholars are:</strong><br /> <br /> Paolo Adajar, junior in mathematical economics, computer science, and public policy<br /> <br /> Ifeoluwapo Ademolu-Odeneye, sophomore in mathematics with computer science&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Boluwatife Akinola, junior in mathematical economics&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Anna Aldins, sophomore in music and theater arts<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Isabel Barnet, sophomore in mechanical engineering<br /> <br /> Israel Bonilla, junior in aeronautics and astronautics<br /> <br /> Owen Broderick, junior in management<br /> <br /> Kevin Costello, junior in mathematics and music<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Hope Dargan, junior in computer science and engineering, and in history<br /> <br /> Nadezhda Dimitrova, junior in aeronautics and astronautics&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Jade Fischer, junior in earth, atmosphere, and planetary sciences &nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Rogerio&nbsp;Guimaraes Jr., junior in electrical engineering and computer science and in linguistics and philosophy<br /> <br /> Madeline Holtz,&nbsp;sophomore in chemistry<br /> <br /> Lily Huo, junior in biological engineering<br /> <br /> Aditya Jog, junior in biology<br /> <br /> Shuli Jones, sophomore in computer science and engineering&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Melissa Klein, junior in mechanical engineering, and in music and theater arts&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Maximillian Langenkamp, junior in electrical engineering and computer science&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Keiran Lewellen, sophomore in physics<br /> <br /> Bhavik Nagda, junior in computer science and engineering&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Neosha Narayanan, sophomore in materials science and engineering&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Avery Nguyen, sophomore in materials science and engineering&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Samuel Nitz, junior in computer science, and in molecular biology&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Isloma Osubor, junior in mechanical engineering and management<br /> <br /> Noopur Ranganathan, junior in anthropology, and in biology<br /> <br /> James Santoro, sophomore in management<br /> <br /> Haniya Shareef,&nbsp;sophomore in biological engineering&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Aaditya Singh, junior in brain and cognitive science, and in computer science and engineering&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Nailah Smith, sophomore in electrical engineering and computer science&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Madison Sneve,&nbsp;sophomore in biology<br /> <br /> Edwin Song, sophomore in mathematical economics&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Sarah Spector, junior in electrical engineering and computer science, and in Latin American and Latino/a studies<br /> <br /> Shobhita Sundaram, sophomore in electrical engineering and computer science&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Sarah Weidman, junior in earth, atmospheric, and planetary sciences, and in physics&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> Alyssa Wells-Lewis, junior in mechanical engineering&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Kevin Wesel, junior in biology<br /> <br /> Carine You, sophomore in electrical engineering and computer science</p> "The Burchard Scholars are an extraordinary group of MIT undergraduates who have demonstrated enthusiasm and aptitude for the humanities, social sciences, or arts,” says Margery Resnick, an MIT professor of literature and director of the Burchard program.School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Arts, Humanities, Leadership, Social sciences, Students, Undergraduate, awards, Awards, honors and fellowships A road map for artificial intelligence policy In a Starr Forum talk, Luis Videgaray, director of MIT’s AI Policy for the World Project, outlines key facets of regulating new technologies. Thu, 20 Feb 2020 14:08:04 -0500 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office <p>The rapid development of artificial intelligence technologies around the globe has led to increasing calls for robust AI policy: laws that let innovation flourish while protecting people from privacy violations, exploitive surveillance, biased algorithms, and more.</p> <p>But the drafting and passing of such laws has been anything but easy.</p> <p>“This is a very complex problem,” Luis Videgaray PhD ’98, director of MIT’s AI Policy for the World Project, said in a lecture on Wednesday afternoon. “This is not something that will be solved in a single report. This has got to be a collective conversation, and it will take a while. It will be years in the making.”</p> <p>Throughout his talk, Videgaray outlined an ambitious vision of AI policy around the globe, one that is sensitive to economic and political dynamics, and grounded in material fairness and democratic deliberation.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“Trust is probably the most important problem we have,” Videgaray said.</p> <p>Videgaray’s talk, “From Principles to Implementation: The Challenge of AI Policy Around the World,” was part of the Starr Forum series of public discussions about topics of global concern. The Starr Forum is hosted by MIT’s Center for International Studies. Videgaray gave his remarks to a standing-room crowd of over 150 in MIT’s Building E25.</p> <p>Videgaray, who is also a senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, previously served as the finance minister of Mexico from 2012 to 2016, and foreign minister of Mexico from 2017 to 2018. Videgaray has also worked extensively in investment banking.</p> <p><strong>Information lag and media hype</strong></p> <p>In his talk, Videgaray began by outlining several “themes” related to AI that he thinks policymakers should keep in mind. These include government uses of AI; the effects of AI on the economy, including the possibility it could help giant tech firms consolidate market power; social responsibility issues, such as privacy, fairness, and bias; and the implications of AI for democracy, at a time when bots can influence political discussion. Videgaray also noted a “geopolitics” of AI regulation — from China’s comprehensive efforts to control technology to the looser methods used in the U.S.</p> <p>Videgaray observed that it is difficult for AI regulators to stay current with technology.</p> <p>“There’s an information lag,” Videgaray said. “Things that concern computer scientists today might become the concerns of policymakers a few years in the future.”</p> <p>Moreover, he noted, media hype can distort perceptions of AI and its applications. Here Videgaray contrasted the <a href="">recent report</a> of MIT’s Task Force on the Future of Work, which finds uncertainty about how many jobs will be replaced with technology, with a recent television documentary presenting a picture of automated vehicles replacing all truck drivers.</p> <p>“Clearly the evidence is nowhere near [indicating] that all jobs in truck driving, in long-distance driving, are going to be lost,” he said. “That is not the case.”</p> <p>With these general issues in mind, what should policymakers do about AI now? Videgaray offered several concrete suggestions. For starters: Policymakers should no longer just outline general philosophical principles, something that has been done many times, with a general convergence of ideas occurring.</p> <p>“Working on principles has very, very small marginal returns,” Videgaray said. “We can go to the next phase … principles are a necessary but not sufficient condition for AI policy. Because policy is about making hard choices in uncertain conditions.”</p> <p>Indeed, he emphasized, more progress can be made by having many AI policy decisions be particular to specific industries. When it comes to, say, medical diagnostics, policymakers want technology “to be very accurate, but you also want it to be explainable, you want it to be fair, without bias, you want the information to be secure … there are many objectives that can conflict with each other. So, this is all about the tradeoffs.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In many cases, he said, algorithm-based AI tools could go through a rigorous testing process, as required in some other industries: “Pre-market testing makes sense,” Videgaray said. “We do that for drugs, clinical trials, we do that for cars, why shouldn’t we do pre-market testing for algorithms?”</p> <p>But while Videgaray sees value in industry-specific regulations, he is not as keen on having a patchwork of varying state-level AI laws being used to regulate technology in the U.S.</p> <p>“Is this a problem for Facebook, for Google? I don’t think so,” Videgaray said. “They have enough resources to navigate through this complexity. But what about startups? What about students from MIT or Cornell or Stanford that are trying to start something, and would have to go through, at the extreme, 55 [pieces of] legislation?”</p> <p><strong>A collaborative conversation</strong></p> <p>At the event, Videgaray was introduced by Kenneth Oye, a professor of political science at MIT who studies technological regulation, and who asked Videgaray questions after the lecture. Among other things, Oye suggested U.S. states could serve as a useful laboratory for regulatory innovation.</p> <p>“In an area characterized by significant uncertainty, complexity, and controversy, there can be benefits to experimentation, having different models being pursued in different areas to see which works best or worse,” Oye suggested.</p> <p>Videgaray did not necessarily disagree, but emphasized the value of an eventual convergence in regulation. The U.S. banking industry, he noted, also followed this trajectory, until “eventually the regulation we have for finance [became] federal,” rather than determined by states.</p> <p>Prior to his remarks, Videgaray acknowledged some audience members, including his PhD thesis adviser at MIT, James Poterba, the Mitsui Professor of Economics, whom Videgaray called “one of the best teachers, not only in economics but about a lot of things in life.” Mexico’s Consul General in Boston, Alberto Fierro, also attended the event.</p> <p>Ultimately, Videgaray emphasized to the audience, the future of AI policy will be collaborative.</p> <p>“You cannot just go to a computer lab and say, ‘Okay, get me some AI policy,’” he stressed. “This has got to be a collective conversation.”</p> Luis Videgaray, director of MIT’s AI Policy for the World Project, talking at his Starr Forum lecture, hosted by the Center for International Studies, on February 19, 2020.Images: courtesy of Laura Kerwin, Center for International StudiesArtificial intelligence, Law, Ethics, Computer science and technology, Political science, Economics, Special events and guest speakers, Global, Center for International Studies, School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Sloan School of Management “Sensorized” skin helps soft robots find their bearings Flexible sensors and an artificial intelligence model tell deformable robots how their bodies are positioned in a 3D environment. Wed, 12 Feb 2020 23:59:59 -0500 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office <p>For the first time, MIT researchers have enabled a soft robotic arm to understand its configuration in 3D space, by leveraging only motion and position data from its own “sensorized” skin.</p> <p>Soft robots constructed from highly compliant materials, similar to those found in living organisms, are being championed as safer, and more adaptable, resilient, and bioinspired alternatives to traditional rigid robots. But giving autonomous control to these deformable robots is a monumental task because they can move in a virtually infinite number of directions at any given moment. That makes it difficult to train planning and control models that drive automation.</p> <p>Traditional methods to achieve autonomous control use large systems of multiple motion-capture cameras that provide the robots feedback about 3D movement and positions. But those are impractical for soft robots in real-world applications.</p> <p>In a paper being published in the journal <em>IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters</em>, the researchers describe a system of soft sensors that cover a robot’s body to provide “proprioception” — meaning awareness of motion and position of its body. That feedback runs into a novel deep-learning model that sifts through the noise and captures clear signals to estimate the robot’s 3D configuration. The researchers validated their system on a soft robotic arm resembling an elephant trunk, that can predict its own position as it autonomously swings around and extends.</p> <p>The sensors can be fabricated using off-the-shelf materials, meaning any lab can develop their own systems, says Ryan Truby, a postdoc in the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Laboratory (CSAIL) who is co-first author on the paper along with CSAIL postdoc Cosimo Della Santina.</p> <p>“We’re sensorizing soft robots to get feedback for control from sensors, not vision systems, using a very easy, rapid method for fabrication,” he says. “We want to use these soft robotic trunks, for instance, to orient and control themselves automatically, to pick things up and interact with the world. This is a first step toward that type of more sophisticated automated control.”</p> <p>One future aim is to help make artificial limbs that can more dexterously handle and manipulate objects in the environment. “Think of your own body: You can close your eyes and reconstruct the world based on feedback from your skin,” says co-author Daniela Rus, director of CSAIL and the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “We want to design those same capabilities for soft robots.”</p> <p><strong>Shaping soft sensors</strong></p> <p>A longtime goal in soft robotics has been fully integrated body sensors. Traditional rigid sensors detract from a soft robot body’s natural compliance, complicate its design and fabrication, and can cause various mechanical failures. Soft-material-based sensors are a more suitable alternative, but require specialized materials and methods for their design, making them difficult for many robotics labs to fabricate and integrate in soft robots.</p> <p>While working in his CSAIL lab one day looking for inspiration for sensor materials, Truby made an interesting connection. “I found these sheets of conductive materials used for electromagnetic interference shielding, that you can buy anywhere in rolls,” he says. These materials have “piezoresistive” properties, meaning they change in electrical resistance when strained. Truby realized they could make effective soft sensors if they were placed on certain spots on the trunk. As the sensor deforms in response to the trunk’s stretching and compressing, its electrical resistance is converted to a specific output voltage. The voltage is then used as a signal correlating to that movement.</p> <p>But the material didn’t stretch much, which would limit its use for soft robotics. Inspired by kirigami —&nbsp;a variation of origami that includes making cuts in a material — Truby designed and laser-cut rectangular strips of conductive silicone sheets into various patterns, such as rows of tiny holes or crisscrossing slices like a chain link fence. That made them far more flexible, stretchable, “and beautiful to look at,” Truby says.</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/" style="width: 500px; height: 281px;" /></p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/" style="width: 500px; height: 281px;" /></p> <p><em style="font-size: 10px;">Credit: Ryan L. Truby, MIT&nbsp;CSAIL</em></p> <p>The researchers’ robotic trunk comprises three segments, each with four fluidic actuators (12 total) used to move the arm. They fused one sensor over each segment, with each sensor covering and gathering data from one embedded actuator in the soft robot. They used “plasma bonding,” a technique that energizes a surface of a material to make it bond to another material. It takes roughly a couple hours to shape dozens of sensors that can be bonded to the soft robots using a handheld plasma-bonding device.</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/" style="width: 500px; height: 281px;" /></p> <p><span style="font-size:10px;"><em>Credit: Ryan L. Truby, MIT&nbsp;CSAIL</em></span></p> <p><strong>“Learning” configurations</strong></p> <p>As hypothesized, the sensors did capture the trunk’s general movement. But they were really noisy. “Essentially, they’re nonideal sensors in many ways,” Truby says. “But that’s just a common fact of making sensors from soft conductive materials. Higher-performing and more reliable sensors require specialized tools that most robotics labs do not have.”</p> <p>To estimate the soft robot’s configuration using only the sensors, the researchers built a deep neural network to do most of the heavy lifting, by sifting through the noise to capture meaningful feedback signals. The researchers developed a new model to kinematically describe the soft robot’s shape that vastly reduces the number of variables needed for their model to process.</p> <p>In experiments, the researchers had the trunk swing around and extend itself in random configurations over approximately an hour and a half. They used the traditional motion-capture system for ground truth data. In training, the model analyzed data from its sensors to predict a configuration, and compared its predictions to that ground truth data which was being collected simultaneously. In doing so, the model “learns” to map signal patterns from its sensors to real-world configurations. Results indicated, that for certain and steadier configurations, the robot’s estimated shape matched the ground truth.</p> <p>Next, the researchers aim to explore new sensor designs for improved sensitivity and to develop new models and deep-learning methods to reduce the required training for every new soft robot. They also hope to refine the system to better capture the robot’s full dynamic motions.</p> <p>Currently, the neural network and sensor skin are not sensitive to capture subtle motions or dynamic movements. But, for now, this is an important first step for learning-based approaches to soft robotic control, Truby says: “Like our soft robots, living systems don’t have to be totally precise. Humans are not precise machines, compared to our rigid robotic counterparts, and we do just fine.”</p> MIT researchers have created a “sensorized” skin, made with kirigami-inspired sensors, that gives soft robots greater awareness of the motion and position of their bodies.Ryan L. Truby, MIT CSAILResearch, Computer science and technology, Algorithms, Robots, Robotics, Soft robotics, Design, Machine learning, Materials Science and Engineering, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering Drawing daily doodles: Chalk of the Day brightens MIT Chalk of the Day, an MIT student group, draws beautiful daily works of art on the chalk wall in Building 32. Mon, 10 Feb 2020 16:10:01 -0500 Julia Newman | Division of Student Life <p>The Ray and Maria Stata Center is an architectural staple of MIT’s campus. Inside the angled walls and modern exterior lives the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (<a href="" target="_blank">CSAIL</a>), the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (<a href="" target="_blank">LIDS</a>), and the <a href="" target="_blank">Department of Linguistics and Philosophy</a>. It's also a central hub for conferences, lunch meetings, and regular events like <a href="" target="_blank">Choose to Reuse</a>. Building 32 also houses the canvas used by student group Chalk of the Day to share daily works of art.</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank">Chalk of the Day</a> was started in 2015 by Benjamin Chan ’17 as a way to give back to the MIT community through inspirational messages and doodles. Today, Chalk of the Day remains a tight-knit group of friends who craft new pieces of art that are visible to passers-by for a day, memorialized on the group's <a href="" target="_blank">Instagram account</a> — and then erased every night.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>Priscilla Wong, a chalker who finished her coursework in computer science and engineering last fall and will be graduating in May, says she began chalking as a way to find an escape from the typical routine at MIT. Each semester, students schedule and claim a day based on their availability. Wong and her chalking partner Jessica Xu, a junior in mechanical engineering, have chalked before, and last semester, they made sure they shared free Tuesday mornings to continue their tradition of making art together.</p> <p>Using a pointillist technique, Wong taps the chalk repeatedly against the board to create a snow effect as she discusses the ways in which chalk is an unusual medium. “Some of the most difficult things about chalking are also what makes it the most interesting,” she says. “If you chalk over a really big area it ends up snowing down on everything below. Sometimes it’s an effect you want to achieve.” Her chalk partner, Jessica Xu, adds “for the most part we come up with techniques on our own.” Wong echoes how there’s a learning curve and the way they learn is simply by chalking.</p> <p>The works of art span from inspirational quotes to more political works, like a drawing in response to the Australian wildfires: a mama and child koala sit in a tree with the text “save us” above, the letters connecting like a crossword puzzle to configure AUS for Australia. The art is often incredibly detailed: One homage to the film “Up” displayed the characters lifted by a house tied to balloons with the message “adventure is out there,” while another featured a hummingbird eating nectar from a blossoming flower.</p> <p>Sarah Wu, a senior mathematics major, has been chalking since her first year at MIT, when she was looking for more artsy things to do around campus. She compares chalking with solving a math problem: Both require a level of creativity, but approaching a blank canvas is a totally different process and engages a different part of her mind. Chalking is a way to relax and de-stress for Wu: “Normally, I’m always thinking about the next assignment or the next test, but this is an opportunity where once a week I can actually remove myself from that and try to focus only on the art I’m making and the things I’m contributing to the community.” She and her chalking partner, Charleen Wang, a senior in electrical engineering and computer science, worked on a lettering piece that reads “Catch your breath, take your time,” filled with snowflakes mimicking the weather conditions outside.</p> <p>Wang shares a similar sentiment to Wu about the importance of Chalk of the Day in her routine. “I think sometimes I forget to engage in a more creative side of me. I learned a lot about how to put in other priorities that I might be forgetting into my schedule. It’s not all about grades,” she says. She likes how temporary chalk is as a medium. “I feel more free to try different things because it’s not something so permanent like pen or painting.” Every day is an opportunity for chalk artists to try something new, create a new work of art, and feel empowered to think outside of the box.</p> <p>Chalking helps students de-stress, but more than that, their artwork spreads positivity and inspiration to the entire MIT community. Passersby “send it to their boyfriend or girlfriend or friend or mother. I like that it has an impact that is beyond Stata or MIT,” Wong reflects. Chalk of the Day members hope that sharing the daily chalk-works encourages others to be more creative in their everyday lives.</p> Jessica Xu and Priscilla Wong stand in front of their finished chalk art in the Stata Center.Photo: Jeff Saint DicStudent life, Community, Arts, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Students, Alumni/ae, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems (LIDS), Clubs and activities Singing for joy and service After surgery to correct childhood hearing loss, Swarna Jeewajee discovered a desire to be a physician-scientist, and a love of a cappella music. Sun, 02 Feb 2020 00:00:00 -0500 Shafaq Patel | MIT News correspondent <p>Swarna Jeewajee grew up loving music — she sings in the shower and blasts music that transports her to a happy state. But until this past year, she never felt confident singing outside her bedroom.</p> <p>Now, the senior chemistry and biology major spends her Saturdays singing around the greater Boston area, at hospitals, homes for the elderly, and rehabilitation centers, with the a cappella group she co-founded, Singing For Service.</p> <p>Jeewajee says she would not have been able to sing in front of people without the newfound confidence that came after she had transformative ear surgery in the spring of 2018.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jeewajee grew up in Mauritius, a small island off the east coast of Madagascar, where she loved the water and going swimming. When she was around 8 years old, she developed chronic ear infections as a result of a cholesteatoma, which caused abnormal skin growth in her middle ear.&nbsp;</p> <p>It took five years and three surgeries for the doctors in Mauritius to diagnose what had happened to Jeewajee’s ear. She spent some of her formative years at the hospital instead of leading a normal childhood and swimming at the beach.&nbsp;</p> <p>By the time Jeewajee was properly diagnosed and treated, she was told her hearing could not be salvaged, and she had to wear a hearing aid.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I sort of just accepted that this was my reality,” she says. “People used to ask me what the hearing aid was like — it was like hearing from headphones. It felt unnatural. But it wasn’t super hard to get used to it. I had to adapt to it.”</p> <p>Eventually, the hearing aid became a part of Jeewajee, and she thought everything was fine. During her first year at MIT, she joined <a href="">Concourse</a>, a first-year learning community which offers smaller classes to fulfill MIT’s General Institute Requirements, but during her sophomore year, she enrolled in larger lecture classes. She found that she wasn’t able to hear as well, and it was a problem.&nbsp;</p> <p>“When I was in high school, I didn’t look at my hearing disability as a disadvantage. But coming here and being in bigger lectures, I had to acknowledge that I was missing out on information,” Jeewajee says.&nbsp;</p> <p>Over the winter break of her sophomore year, her mother, who had been living in the U.S. while Jeewajee was raised by her grandmother in Mauritius, convinced Jeewajee to see a specialist at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Hospital. That’s when Jeewajee encountered her role model, Felipe Santos, a surgeon who specializes in her hearing disorder.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jeewajee had sought Santos’ help to find a higher-performing hearing aid, but instead he recommended a titanium implant to restore her hearing via a minimally invasive surgery. Now, Jeewajee does not require a hearing aid at all, and she can hear equally well from both ears.&nbsp;</p> <p>“The surgery helped me with everything. I used to not be able to balance, and now I am better at that. I had no idea that my hearing affected that,” she says.&nbsp;</p> <p>These changes, she says, are little things. But it’s the little things that made a large impact.&nbsp;</p> <p>“I gained a lot more confidence after the surgery. In class, I was more comfortable raising my hand. Overall, I felt like I was living better,” she says.</p> <p>This feeling is what brought Jeewajee to audition for the a cappella group. She never had any formal training in singing, but in January, during MIT’s Independent Activities Period, her friend mentioned that she wanted to start an a cappella group and convinced Jeewajee to help her start Singing For Service. The group launched with the help of the <a href="">Council for the Arts Grants Program</a>, which supports student arts projects that engage with the MIT community and beyond.</p> <p>Jeewajee describes Singing For Service as her “fun activity” at MIT, where she can just let loose. She is a soprano singer, and the group of nine to 12 students practices for about three hours a week before their weekly performances. They prepare three songs for each show; a typical lineup is a Disney melody, Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” and a mashup from the movie “The Greatest Showman.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Her favorite part is when they take song requests from the audience. For example, Singing For Service recently went to a home for patients with multiple sclerosis, who requested songs from the Beatles and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After the performance, the group mingles with the audience, which is one of Jeewajee’s favorite parts of the day.&nbsp;</p> <p>She loves talking with patients and the elderly. Because Jeewajee was a patient for so many years growing up, she now wants to help people who are going through that type of experience. That is why she is going into the medical field and strives to earn an MD-PhD.&nbsp;</p> <p>“When I was younger, I kind of always was at the doctor’s office. Doctors want to help you and give you a treatment and make you feel better. This aspect of medicine has always fascinated me, how someone is literally dedicating their time to helping you. They don’t know you, they’re not family, but they’re here for you. And I want to be there for someone as well,” she says.&nbsp;</p> <p>Jeewajee says that because she grew up with a medical condition that was poorly understood, she wants to devote her career to search for answers to tough medical problems. Perhaps not surprisingly, she has gravitated toward cancer research.</p> <p>She discovered her passion for this field after her first year at MIT, when she spent the summer conducting research in a cancer hospital in Lyon, through MISTI-France. There, she experienced an “epiphany” as she watched scientists and physicians come together to fight cancer, and was inspired to do the same.</p> <p>She cites the hospital’s motto, “Chercher et soigner jusqu’à la guérison,” which means “Research and treat until the cure,” as an expression of what she will aspire to as a physician-scientist.</p> <p>Last summer, while working at The Rockefeller University investigating mechanisms of resistance to cancer therapy, she developed a deeper appreciation for how individual patients can respond differently to a particular treatment, which is part of what makes cancer so hard to treat. Upon her return at MIT, she joined the <a href="" target="_blank">Hemann lab</a> at the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, where she conducts research on near-haploid leukemia, a subtype of blood cancer. Her ultimate goal is to find a vulnerability that may be exploited to develop new treatments for these patients.</p> <p>The Koch Institute has become her second home on MIT’s campus. She enjoys the company of her labmates, who she says are good mentors and equally passionate about science. The walls of the lab are adorned with science-related memes and cartoons, and amusing photos of the team’s scientific adventures.</p> <p>Jeewajee says her work at the Koch Institute has reaffirmed her motivation to pursue a career combining science and medicine.</p> <p>“I want to be working on something that is challenging so that I can truly make a difference. Even if I am working with patients for whom we may or may not have the right treatment, I want to have the capacity to be there for them and help them understand and navigate the situation, like doctors did for me growing up,” Jeewajee says.</p> Swarna JeewajeeImage: Gretchen ErtlProfile, Students, Undergraduate, Chemistry, Biology, Medicine, Koch Institute, MISTI, Cancer, Student life, Arts, Music, School of Science, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Council for the Arts at MIT 3 Questions: Kang Zhou on the lessons of Chinese calligraphy When we appreciate calligraphy works in class, we also analyze the life experiences and stories of each calligrapher’s unique style. Tue, 28 Jan 2020 15:40:01 -0500 Lisa Hickler | MIT Global Languages <p><em>Kang Zhou is a lecturer in Chinese in MIT Global Languages. His class, 21G.111 (Chinese Calligraphy), teaches the fundamentals of one of the best-known traditional arts during the Institute's Independent Activities Period in January. Students taking this class may be learning Chinese as a second language but are not required to speak the language to participate. Here, he explores some of the secrets behind the calligraphy craft, as well as reasons for creating this IAP class at MIT.</em></p> <p><strong>Q.</strong> What is the difference between teaching the writing of Chinese characters and teaching Chinese calligraphy?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> When teaching Chinese characters in traditional Chinese class, emphasis is placed on accuracy in writing the characters. The students need to understand and grasp the structure, stroke order, and other basic knowledge. However, in calligraphy class, we decipher these Chinese characters to gain more insight into them. We study the evolution of the characters — that is, where did they come from and how have they changed? How have the shapes of these characters developed in the thousands of years since originating from oracle bone script? What are the different calligraphy styles? What aesthetic standards have people held for calligraphy during different time periods? What kind of personal experiences, as well as social and cultural information, is reflected in each calligrapher’s unique style? We often say that when looking at the work of a great calligrapher, we can actually see that entire era. With this in mind, we also wonder how the art of calligraphy interacts with Chinese society and daily life. These are the type of questions we study when learning calligraphy.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> What do you think students take away from this class?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Studying Chinese characters and calligraphy is essentially about communication — helping us convey and appreciate feelings. The class places great emphasis on increasing contact and building relationships with others through the art of calligraphy. We have card-making activities and giving “fortune” for Lunar New Year. We also have a class trip to the [Boston] Museum of Fine Arts to appreciate the art of calligraphy. Students gain an appreciation for not only the art of calligraphy, but how you can learn about Chinese culture through the perspective of calligraphy and characters. Also important is practicing the vital principles of calligraphy: meditation, concentration, observation, and reflection. One of the important aesthetic principles of calligraphy is balance, which greatly aids students’ study and life.</p> <p><strong>Q:</strong> How did you learn calligraphy?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> I was born in the countryside of Xi’an, Shaanxi, and my first introduction to calligraphy came from my grandfather. He wrote beautiful script, so he would help other villagers write documents, and in doing so, gained great respect from the village and was known as the “cultural man.” I was very curious how someone could gain such status from being skilled at calligraphy, and through this I realized the power of Chinese characters. My parents greatly valued my calligraphy education, and I started going to the city for calligraphy classes from a young age.</p> <p>Later on, I had the opportunity to meet a famed calligrapher and learn from him. Interestingly, it seemed to me that this old calligrapher taught me more on how to be a good person. He often said: “If a person does not do well, the characters will not be written well; if the person is honorable, only then will the characters be written correctly.” Thinking about it now, it is a fascinating notion that calligraphy makes children start to contemplate what makes a person good from such a young age. Later, I realized that in Chinese culture, admiration of calligraphers’ works involves not only critique from an artistic perspective, but also evaluation of the calligraphers’ morality and character. Therefore, when we appreciate calligraphy works in class, we also analyze the life experiences and stories of the calligraphers to further our understanding.</p> Kang Zhou, a lecturer in Chinese in MIT Global Studies and Languages, teaches the fundamentals of Chinese calligraphy during the MIT's Independent Activities Period in January.Photo: Lisa HicklerSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, 3 Questions, Global Studies and Languages, Faculty, China, Writing, Classes and programs, Arts Printing objects that can incorporate living organisms A 3D printing system that controls the behavior of live bacteria could someday enable medical devices with therapeutic agents built in. Thu, 23 Jan 2020 00:00:00 -0500 David L. Chandler | MIT News Office <p>A method for printing 3D objects that can control living organisms in predictable ways has been developed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers at MIT and elsewhere. The technique may lead to 3D printing of biomedical tools, such as customized braces, that incorporate living cells to produce therapeutic compunds such as painkillers or topical treatments, the researchers say.</p> <p>The new development was led by MIT Media Lab Associate Professor Neri Oxman and graduate students Rachel Soo Hoo Smith, Christoph Bader, and Sunanda Sharma, along with six others at MIT and at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The system is described in a paper recently published in the journal <em>Advanced Functional Materials</em>.</p> <p>“We call them hybrid living materials, or HLMs,” Smith says. For their initial proof-of-concept experiments, the team precisely incorporated various chemicals into the 3D printing process. These chemicals act as signals to activate certain responses in biologically engineered microbes, which are spray-coated onto the printed object. Once added, the microbes display specific colors or fluorescence in response to the chemical signals.</p> <p>In their study, the team describes the appearance of these colored patterns in a variety of printed objects, which they say demonstrates the successful incorporation of the living cells into the surface of the 3D-printed material, and the cells’ activation in response to the selectively placed chemicals.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>The objective is to make a robust design tool for producing objects and devices incorporating living biological elements, made in a way that is as predictable and scalable as other industrial manufacturing processes.</p> <p>The team uses a multistep process to produce their hybrid living materials. First, they use a commercially available multimaterial inkjet-based 3D printer, and customized recipes for the combinations of resins and chemical signals used for printing. For example, they found that one type of resin, normally used just to produce a temporary support for overhanging parts of a printed structure and then dissolved away after printing, could produce useful results by being mixed in with the structural resin material. The parts of the structure that incorporate this support material become absorbent and are able to retain the chemical signals that control the behavior of the living organisms.</p> <p>Finally, the living layer is added: a surface coating of hydrogel — a gelatinous material composed mostly of water but providing a stable and durable lattice structure — is infused with biologically engineered bacteria and spray-coated onto the object.</p> <p>“We can define very specific shapes and distributions of the hybrid living materials and the biosynthesized products, whether they be colors or therapeutic agents, within the printed shapes,” Smith says. Some of these initial test shapes were made as silver-dollar-sized disks, and others in the form of colorful face masks, with the colors provided by the living bacteria within their structure. The colors take several hours to develop as the bacteria grow, and then remain stable once they are in place.</p> <p>“There are exciting practical applications with this approach, since designers are now able to control and pattern the growth of living systems through a computational algorithm,” Oxman says. “Combining computational design, additive manufacturing, and synthetic biology, the HLM platform points toward the far-reaching impact these technologies may have across seemingly disparate fields, ‘enlivening’ design and the object space.”</p> <p>The printing platform the team used allows the material properties of the printed object to be varied precisely and continuously between different parts of the structure, with some sections stiffer and others more flexible, and some more absorbent and others liquid-repellent. Such variations could be useful in the design of biomedical devices that can provide strength and support while also being soft and pliable to provide comfort in places where they are in contact with the body.</p> <p>The team included specialists in biology, bioengineering, and computer science to come up with a system that yields predictable patterning of the biological behavior across the printed object, despite the effects of factors such as diffusion of chemicals through the material. Through computer modeling of these effects, the researchers produced software that they say offers levels of precision comparable to the computer-assisted design (CAD) systems used for traditional 3D printing systems.</p> <p>The multiresin 3D printing platform can use anywhere from three to seven different resins with different properties, mixed in any proportions. In combination with synthetic biological engineering, this makes it possible to design objects with biological surfaces that can be programmed to respond in specific ways to particular stimuli such as light or temperature or chemical signals, in ways that are reproducible yet completely customizable, and that can be produced on demand, the researchers say.</p> <p>“In the future, the pigments included in the masks can be replaced with useful chemical substances for human augmentation such as vitamins, antibodies or antimicrobial drugs,” Oxman says. “Imagine, for example, a wearable interface designed to guide ad-hoc antibiotic formation customized to fit the genetic makeup of its user. Or, consider smart packaging that can detect contamination, or environmentally responsive architectural skins that can respond and adapt — in real-time — to environmental cues.”</p> <p>In their tests, the team used genetically modified <em>E. coli </em>bacteria, because these grow rapidly and are widely used and studied, but in principle other organisms could be used as well, the researchers say.</p> <p>The team included Dominik Kolb, Tzu-Chieh Tang, Christopher Voigt, and Felix Moser at MIT; Ahmed Hosny at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute of Harvard Medical School; and James Weaver at Harvard's Wyss Institute. It was supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Gettylab, the DARPA Engineered Living Materials agreement, and a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship.</p> 3-D printing, Design, Manufacturing, Media Lab, Research, Synthetic biology, School of Architecture and Planning Stick with me A campaign to spread notes of kindness is coming to MIT, inspired by alumni Nick Demas and Jerry Wang. Thu, 16 Jan 2020 14:40:01 -0500 Maisie O’Brien | MindHandHeart <p>Have you ever received a spontaneous note of encouragement on a bad day? Or a few kinds words that helped you overcome a daunting challenge? This year, MindHandHeart is hoping to create more of these moments of care and support.</p> <p>At tabling events from orientation to finals, MindHandHeart is giving away colorful sticky cards with instructions for writing encouraging messages to friends, colleagues, labmates, and others.</p> <p>This campaign began several years ago when two recent graduates, Jerry Wang PhD '19 and Nick Demas PhD '19, founded the “Stick with Me” project. Having served as co-presidents of Edgerton House, where they organized over 100 community events, Demas and Wang’s commitment to community has left an indelible mark on the MIT campus.</p> <p>Demas and Wang met as undergraduates at Yale University and arrived at MIT to study mechanical engineering. Wang studied the nanoscale physics of fluid, while Demas specialized in developing new sensors. They chose to live together in Edgerton House, where they stayed their entire time at MIT.</p> <p>“I feel truly lucky to have made such a terrific friend in Jerry,” says Demas. “MIT is a tough place to go through alone, but making strong friendships makes the good times really sweet and the hard times manageable.”</p> <p>Their “Stick with Me” project began during their first semester at MIT. “That’s when the huge wave of exams that comes with being an MIT student really hit us,” recalls Demas. “Jerry put a post-it note with a lighthearted good luck message on the back of our door for me to read before my first test. It was a really nice note of encouragement. The exam went horribly, but the note definitely helped keep everything in perspective.”</p> <p>Demas returned the favor, writing out a list of mathematical symbols that translated to “Good Luck Jerry!” on a sticky note. “Certainly, before a test, the last thing you need is more high-level cognitive reasoning, but it was a fun note and it made me laugh,” says Wang.</p> <p>Fast forward to the end of their PhDs at MIT and their door was covered in a mosaic of sticky notes, featuring drawings, puns, movie quotes, and much “nerd humor.”</p> <p>“I look back on all of our notes and caffeine-filled nights with such fondness,” says Demas. “There’s just so much camaraderie and fellowship that comes with sticking through thick and thin with somebody.”</p> <p>Motivated to share their “Stick with Me” tradition with others, Demas and Wang applied to the <a href="">MindHandHeart Innovation Fund</a>, a grant program supporting ideas to make MIT a more welcoming, inclusive, and healthy place. They were awarded funds to turn their sticky notes into postcards, which were distributed across campus and sent to regions as far away as Portugal, South Africa, and China.</p> <p>The pair also hosted an event in Edgerton House where over 100 students attended and made sticky notes and postcards for their friends and housemates. And, they covered the pillars in Lobby 7 with sticky notes and invited passersby to write messages of support and encouragement to students during finals period.</p> <p>“Being immersed in the intense, cutting-edge work we do here at MIT can be a lonely, demanding experience, but there’s also a lot of potential for community,” says Wang. “It’s your community that will ground you, and I think everybody can seek that out. It’s never too late to meet new people, join a club, or attend a social event.”</p> <p>Considering what advice they would give current MIT students, Demas reflects: “Take the initiative and reach out to others. Invite people to tell you about their day. People will reciprocate. That’s where making lifelong connections starts.”</p> <p>Nodding, Wang adds, “And make your own sticky notes or something else entirely for your friends. You can create your own story in your own medium, and brighten someone’s day.”</p> Nick Demas PhD '19 (left) and Jerry Wang PhD '19 stand outside Edgerton House with a larger-than-life note of encouragement.Photo: Maisie O'BrienMindHandHeart, Mechanical engineering, School of Engineering, Community, Student life, Arts, Alumni/ae Preventing energy loss in windows Mechanical engineers are developing technologies that could prevent heat from entering or escaping windows, potentially preventing a massive loss of energy. Mon, 06 Jan 2020 15:30:01 -0500 Mary Beth Gallagher | Department of Mechanical Engineering <p>In the quest to make buildings more energy efficient, windows present a particularly difficult problem. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, heat that either escapes or enters windows accounts for roughly 30 percent of the energy used to heat and cool buildings. Researchers are developing a variety of window technologies that could prevent this massive loss of energy.</p> <p>“The choice of windows in a building has a direct influence on energy consumption,” says Nicholas Fang, professor of mechanical engineering. “We need an effective way of blocking solar radiation.”</p> <p>Fang is part of a large collaboration that is working together to develop smart adaptive control and monitoring systems for buildings. The research team, which includes researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Leon Glicksman, professor of building technology and mechanical engineering at MIT, has been tasked with helping Hong Kong achieve its ambitious goal to reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent by 2025.</p> <p>“Our idea is to adapt new sensors and smart windows in an effort to help achieve energy efficiency and improve thermal comfort for people inside buildings,” Fang explains.</p> <p>His contribution is the development of a smart material that can be placed on a window as a film that blocks heat from entering. The film remains transparent when the surface temperature is under 32 degrees Celsius, but turns milky when it exceeds 32 C. This change in appearance is due to thermochromic microparticles that change phases in response to heat. The smart window’s milky appearance can block up to 70 percent of solar radiation from passing through the window, translating to a 30 percent reduction in cooling load.&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to this thermochromic material, Fang’s team is hoping to embed windows with sensors that monitor sunlight, luminance, and temperature. “Overall, we want an integral solution to reduce the load on HVAC systems,” he explains.</p> <p>Like Fang, graduate student Elise Strobach is working on a material that could significantly reduce the amount of heat that either escapes or enters through windows. She has developed a high-clarity silica aerogel that, when placed between two panes of glass, is 50 percent more insulating than traditional windows and lasts up to a decade longer.</p> <p>“Over the course of the past two years, we’ve developed a material that has demonstrated performance and is promising enough to start commercializing,” says Strobach, who is a PhD candidate in MIT’s Device Research Laboratory. To help in this commercialization, Strobach has co-founded the startup <a href="">AeroShield Materials</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>Lighter than a marshmallow, AeroShield’s material comprises 95 percent air. The rest of the material is made up of silica nanoparticles that are just 1-2 nanometers large. This structure blocks all three modes of heat loss: conduction, convection, and radiation. When gas is trapped inside the material’s small voids, it can no longer collide and transfer energy through convection. Meanwhile, the silica nanoparticles absorb radiation and re-emit it back in the direction it came from.</p> <p>“The material’s composition allows for a really intense temperature gradient that keeps the heat where you want it, whether it’s hot or cold outside,” explains Strobach, who, along with AeroShield co-founder Kyle Wilke, was named one of <a href="">Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Energy</a>. Commercialization of this research is being supported by the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation.</p> <p>Strobach also sees possibilities for combining AeroShield technologies with other window solutions being developed at MIT, including Fang’s work and research being conducted by Gang Chen, Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering, and research scientist Svetlana Boriskina.</p> <p>“Buildings represent one third of U.S. energy usage, so in many ways windows are low-hanging fruit,” explains Chen.</p> <p>Chen and Boriskina previously worked with Strobach on the first iteration of the AeroShield material for their project developing a solar thermal aerogel receiver. More recently, they have developed polymers that could be used in windows or building facades to trap or reflect heat, regardless of color.&nbsp;</p> <p>These polymers were partially inspired by stained-glass windows. “I have an optical background, so I’m always drawn to the visual aspects of energy applications,” says Boriskina. “The problem is, when you introduce color it affects whatever energy strategy you are trying to pursue.”</p> <p>Using a mix of polyethylene and a solvent, Chen and Boriskina added various nanoparticles to provide color. Once stretched, the material becomes translucent and its composition changes. Previously disorganized carbon chains reform as parallel lines, which are much better at conducting heat.</p> <p>While these polymers need further development for use in transparent windows, they could possibly be used in colorful, translucent windows that reflect or trap heat, ultimately leading to energy savings. “The material isn’t as transparent as glass, but it’s translucent. It could be useful for windows in places you don’t want direct sunlight to enter — like gyms or classrooms,” Boriskina adds.</p> <p>Boriskina is also using these materials for military applications. Through a three-year project funded by the U.S. Army, she is developing lightweight, custom-colored, and unbreakable polymer windows. These windows can provide passive temperature control and camouflage for portable shelters and vehicles.</p> <p>For any of these technologies to have a meaningful impact on energy consumption, researchers must improve scalability and affordability. “Right now, the cost barrier for these technologies is too high — we need to look into more economical and scalable versions,” Fang adds.&nbsp;</p> <p>If researchers are successful in developing manufacturable and affordable solutions, their window technologies could vastly improve building efficiency and lead to a substantial reduction in building energy consumption worldwide.</p> A smart window developed by Professor Nicholas Fang includes thermochromic material that turns frosty when exposed to temperatures of 32 C or higher, such as when a researcher touches the window with her hand. Photo courtesy of the researchers.Mechanical engineering, School of Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Energy, Architecture, Climate change, Glass, Nanoscience and nanotechnology Exploring hip hop history with art and technology With its centerpiece exhibit for the forthcoming Universal Hip Hop Museum, an MIT team uses artificial intelligence to explore the rich history of hip hop music. Fri, 20 Dec 2019 09:00:00 -0500 Suzanne Day | Office of Open Learning <p>A new museum is coming to New York City in 2023, the year of hip-hop’s 50th birthday, and an MIT team has helped to pave the way for the city to celebrate the legacy of this important musical genre — by designing unique creative experiences at the intersection of art, learning, and contemporary technology.</p> <p>With “The [R]evolution of Hip Hop Breakbeat Narratives,” a team led by D. Fox Harrell, professor of digital media and artificial intelligence and director of the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality, has created an art installation that takes museum-goers on an interactive, personalized journey through hip hop history.</p> <p>The installation served as the centerpiece of an event held this month by leaders of the highly anticipated Universal Hip Hop Museum (UHHM), which will officially open in just a few years in the Bronx — the future home of the UHHM, and where many agree that the genre of hip hop music originated.</p> <p>“Hip hop is much more than a musical genre. It is a global phenomenon, with a rich history and massive social and cultural impact, with local roots in the Bronx,” Harrell says. “As an educational center, the Universal Hip Hop Museum will have the power to connect people to the surrounding community.”</p> <p>Harrell’s immersive art installation takes museum-goers on a journey through hip hop culture and history, from the 1970s to the present. However, not everyone experiences the installation in the same way. Using a computational model of users’ preferences and artificial intelligence technologies to drive interaction, the team of artists and computer scientists from the Center for Advanced Virtuality has created layered, personalized virtual experiences.</p> <p>When approaching the exhibit, museum-goers are greeted by “The Elementals,” or novel characters named after the five elements of hip hop (MC, DJ, Breakdance, Graffiti Art, and Knowledge) that guide users and ask key questions — “What is your favorite hip hop song?” or “Which from this pair of lyrics do you like the most?” Based on those answers, the Elementals take users through their own personalized narrative of hip hop history.</p> <p>Harrell developed the Elementals with professors John Jennings of the University of California at Riverside and Stacey Robinson of the University of Illinois — artists collectively known as Black Kirby. This visual aesthetic ties the work into the rich, imaginative cultures and iconography of the African diaspora.</p> <p>Through these conversations with the Elementals they encounter, people can explore broad social issues surrounding hip hop, such as gender, fashion, and location. At the end of their journey, they can take home a personalized playlist of songs.&nbsp;</p> <p>“We designed the Breakbeat Narratives installation by integrating Microsoft conversational AI technologies, which made our user modeling more personable, with a music visualization platform from the TunesMap Educational Foundation,” Harrell says.</p> <p>The exploration of social issues is about as close to the heart of Harrell’s mission in the Center for Advanced Virtuality as one can get. In the center, Harrell designs virtual technologies to stimulate creative expression, cultural analysis, and positive social change.</p> <p>“We wanted to tell stories that pushed beyond stereotypical representations, digging into the complexities of both empowering and problematic representations that often coexist,” he says. “This work fits into our endeavor called the Narrative, Orality, and Improvisation Research (NOIR) Initiative that uses AI technologies to forward the art forms of diverse global cultures.”</p> <p>Through this art project enabled by contemporary technologies, Harrell hopes that he has helped museum leadership to achieve their goal of celebrating hip-hop’s heritage and legacy.</p> <p>“Now, people internationally can have a stake in this great art.”</p> Designed by an MIT team using artificial intelligence, “The [R]evolution of Hip Hop Breakbeat Narratives” is an immersive art installation designed for the forthcoming Universal Hip Hop Museum in New York City.Photo: MIT Center for Advanced VirtualityOffice of Open Learning, Machine learning, Artificial intelligence, History, Arts, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Technology and society, Music, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, School of Engineering MIT Press authors earn coveted “best of” book honors in 2019 The book publisher continues to produce intellectually daring, scholarly work. Wed, 18 Dec 2019 15:30:01 -0500 MIT Press <p>The MIT Press recently announced that six MIT Press authors were awarded “best of” recognition in 2019. From Bill Gates’ recommendation of “Growth,” by one of his “favorite authors,” to “2016 in Museums, Money, and Politics,” which was selected as the <em>ARTnews</em> No. 1 pick for “Best Art Books of the Decade,” the authors of the MIT Press continue to produce intellectually daring, scholarly work.</p> <p>“We are thrilled to have this recognition given to our forward-thinking authors,” says Amy Brand, director of the MIT Press. “Their work and expertise continue to drive our mission and foster the exchange of ideas, reinforcing the importance of intellectual conversations across the arts and sciences&nbsp;that advance our world.”</p> <p>Awards were given to the following books:</p> <p>“Gyorgy Kepes: Undreaming the Bauhaus,” by John R. Blakinger, was selected by <em>The New York Times</em> as a top art book of 2019 by critic Martha Schwendener.</p> <p>“An overdue treatment of the Hungarian-born artist and designer Gyorgy Kepes explores his career,” wrote Schwendener. “Technology and war are often common threads in Kepes’s work. Innovating forms of camouflage during World War II, his designs coincided with clashes around M.I.T.’s connections with the military during the Vietnam War. Mr. Blakinger argues that Kepes represents a new form of modern artist fluent in and influenced by technology: ‘the artist as technocrat.’”</p> <p>“2016 in Museums, Money, and Politics<strong><em>,</em></strong>”<strong><em> </em></strong>by Andrea Fraser, was the No. 1 pick on the “The Best Art Books of the Decade” by Alex Greenberger, senior editor for <em>ARTnews.</em></p> <p>“Where would we be without Andrea Fraser’s “2016 in Museums, Money, and Politics?” asked Greenberger. “This book has become a touchstone at a time when activists are calling out board members for their political leanings … seeing it all collected neatly in one tome is powerful — as a cool-headed study, an intelligent research-based artwork, and a clarion call for change all in one.”</p> <p>“Mass Effect: Art and the Internet in the Twenty-First Century,” edited by Lauren Cornell and Ed Halter, was No. 4 on Greenberger’s “Best Art Books of the Decade.”</p> <p>He wrote, “The closest thing to a movement that emerged this decade was a new kind of digital art — one that was termed ‘post-internet’ by some for the way it moved the slick aesthetics of the web into the world at large. Mass Effect has become the go-to critical companion to this style and work made by the artists whose pioneering pieces inspired it.”</p> <p>“Growth,” by Vaclav Smil, was recommended by Bill Gates on <em>Gates Notes
.</em></p> <p>“When I first heard that one of my favorite authors was working on a new book about growth, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it,” said Gates. “(Two years ago, I wrote that I wait for new Smil books the way some people wait for the next Star Wars movie. I stand by that statement.) His latest doesn’t disappoint. As always, I don’t agree with everything Smil says, but he remains one of the best thinkers out there at documenting the past and seeing the big picture.”</p> <p>“Fables and Futures,” by George Estreich, was featured on <em>NPR Science Friday</em> as among “The Best Science Books of 2019.”</p> <p>“As new prenatal screening tools enter the market and we begin to seriously grapple with the idea of human genome editing, we would do well to think deeply about the consequences of such technologies on the rights and welfare of individuals we consider disabled,” wrote Valerie Thompson, editor for <em>Science Friday.</em> “I recommend 'Fables and Futures' to anyone who wants to seriously engage in the human genome editing debate at the society and species levels.”</p> <p>“Find Your Path: Unconventional Lessons from 36 Leading Scientists and Engineers,” by Daniel Goodman, was featured as a “Selected New Book on Higher Education” by <em>The Chronicle of Higher Education.</em></p> Six MIT Press authors were awarded “best of” recognition in 2019.Image courtesy of The MIT Press.Awards, honors and fellowships, Books and authors, MIT Press, Science communication, Arts, Economics, Politics, History, Science writing Design for the Hayden Library renovation takes shape Renovated spaces will be more flexible and welcoming, maximizing views and natural light. Thu, 12 Dec 2019 12:12:01 -0500 Brigham Fay | MIT Libraries <p>The MIT Libraries, working with&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Kennedy &amp; Violich Architecture</a>&nbsp;(KVA), have developed the design for the upcoming Hayden Library renovation. As seen in architectural concept renderings, the new design accommodates the library’s multiple uses with dynamic areas for collaboration, research, and community-building, as well as quiet study.&nbsp;</p> <p>Reopening in fall 2020, the renovated library will include a transformation of the first floor and parts of the second floor. New research and event program space, infrastructure upgrades, and improved accessibility will better&nbsp;support the ways that today’s MIT community uses library space. If donor funding is secured, Lipschitz Courtyard, adjacent to Hayden, will also be renovated concurrently with the library to provide a compelling outdoor community green space with new landscaping and seating areas.&nbsp;</p> <p>“We asked KVA to create spaces that reflect the library of the future — participatory, creative, dynamic — while also preserving what makes Hayden such a popular study destination: quiet, restful space with beautiful views,” says Chris Bourg, director of the MIT Libraries. “Their design will not only make the library more open and welcoming; it will invite community members to make connections between ideas, collections, and each other.”</p> <p><strong>Research crossroads</strong></p> <p>KVA’s design concept for Hayden Library, “Research Crossroads,” is designed to enable new ways to study, collaborate, and conduct research with the library’s collections. The first floor has been designed as a dynamic and flexible community space for research and dialogue, where a new café, event space, and reservable study rooms will encourage impromptu gatherings, collaborative study, and community events. Two new double-height pavilion structures, clad in translucent glass and ash wood, are located in an X-shaped configuration that opens up views to the Lipschitz Courtyard and the Charles River.&nbsp;</p> <p>“The Research Crossroads design concept was guided by the inspiring new vision for Hayden that MIT Libraries has developed,” says Sheila Kennedy, founding principal of KVA and&nbsp;<a href="">professor of architecture</a>&nbsp;in MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning. “The new design and renovation project will help bring the physical spaces of Hayden into a future where research collaboration and inclusive community building are becoming increasingly important.”&nbsp;</p> <p>“This design puts research physically and figuratively at the center of the library,” says Bourg. “The research rooms will be visible as you enter, signaling that the library is an active and vibrant space where people are interacting with knowledge and each other.”</p> <p>The entire first floor of the new Hayden, more than 10,000 square feet of space, will be accessible 24 hours a day to anyone with an MIT ID. The first and second floors of the library will be connected with an expanded new elevator and a new public stair and circulation path. At the east end of the first floor, a flexible event and teaching space can be configured in different ways to host events ranging from lectures to book signings, as well as library workshops and classes.</p> <p>The second-floor reading room will remain a place for quiet study,&nbsp;suffused with natural light and featuring river views. Adjacent to the reading room will be staff offices for subject librarians and experts in scholarly communications, with areas for consultation with MIT students, faculty, and researchers. New flexible work space on the east side of Building 14’s second floor will provide additional space for study, research, and working with library collections.</p> <p><strong>Accessibility and sustainability&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Access and sustainability have been priorities throughout the design process. An accessible, full-size elevator, the removal of non-accessible mezzanines, and the addition of new gender-inclusive restrooms and a lactation room will all contribute to a more inclusive and welcoming library. In addition to aiming for <span class="ILfuVd"><span class="e24Kjd">Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design</span></span> Gold certification, the Hayden renovation will also be piloting two new certifications for MIT: Fitwel, a building certification focused on positive impacts for occupant health and wellbeing, and an interior design strategy that uses environmentally responsible materials.&nbsp;</p> <p>To realize this vision for the new Hayden, the library will be closed from mid-December until fall 2020. Access to the basement-level general collections will close on Dec. 15, and all study spaces (including the 24-hour space) close on Dec. 19 at 5 p.m.&nbsp;</p> <p>An&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">exhibit</a>&nbsp;about the Hayden Library renovation opens in the Maihaugen Gallery (14N-130) in December and will remain on view throughout construction.&nbsp;</p> A conceptual rendering for MIT's Hayden Library shows a new stair that leads to the mezzanine level and the second-floor reading room. Study rooms, computer stations, and flexible furniture configurations all benefit from views to the Charles River and Boston skyline through Hayden’s double-height windows. Image: Kennedy and Violich ArchitectureSchool of Architecture and Planning, Community, Facilities, Campus buildings and architecture, Architecture, Libraries MIT researchers examine cities worldwide for 2019 Seoul Architecture and Urbanism Biennale Transportation, communication, development, and social interaction are explored through the lens of the urban. Wed, 11 Dec 2019 12:35:01 -0500 School of Architecture and Planning <p>Inspired by the question “What are the problems our cities must confront?”, faculty, students, and alumni from the MIT School of Architecture and Planning participated in the 2019 Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism, which ran from September to November.</p> <p>The Biennale’s Cities Exhibition, curated by Rafael Luna MArch ’10 and Dongwoo Yim, invited participation from researchers in more than 80 cities worldwide, asking them to examine their most pressing concerns through the lens of the Biennale’s theme of “Collective City.” Their curatorial process included both identifying issues specific to cities and uncovering unexplored connections among them — and creating a new discourse in response.</p> <p>In their statement, the curators said, “[O]ur cities are a collective of spatial, temporal, and social environments and at the same time, organisms that constantly change due to the intervention of unintentional or unplanned factors. Even a [perfectly planned] city can reveal a new consequence due to the new variables; a city devised without solid plans creates a new order through the optimal interactions of the city’s elements. In all of these processes, temporal, spatial, and social elements are combined and work together. Thus, each city continues to evolve through every moment.”</p> <p>This year, the MIT-related participants and projects in the Seoul Biennale of Architecture and Urbanism included:</p> <p><a href=";cate=cities" target="_blank">Aldo: A Social Infrastructure</a>, from Julia Jamrozik and Coryn Kempster MArch ’08, examines Buffalo, New York — a 19th-century boomtown that declined sharply in the mid-20th century. Despite recent investment and activity, parts of Buffalo remain blighted by poverty and segregation. Aldo addresses this inequality with social infrastructures for playful public encounters, creating spaces for people from varied economic, political, and racial backgrounds to share experiences. &nbsp;</p> <p><a href=";cate=cities">Bangkok’s Urban Presence</a><a href=";cate=cities" target="_blank">: Toward the Future of Smart Urbanity</a>, by Non Arkaraprasertkul MS ’07 and Shouheng Shen, proposes interventions to address mobility obstacles in Bangkok, Thailand, such as traffic congestion. This work envisions a new “Smart Urbanity” that is scientific, data-driven, and socially sensitive to space and place. By investigating the challenges faced by pedestrians, this work seeks to provide a generalization of how and why we should not ignore physical realities when creating a sense of place.</p> <p><a href=";cate=cities">Big Plans: Made for China</a>, by Michael Sorkin Studio/Michael Sorkin MArch ’74, presents several projects that arise from fundamental predicates of the good city: neighborhoods; primacy of pedestrians; free mix of uses; recalculation of the ratio of green, blue, and built space; high levels of local autonomy; and the most radical environmental infrastructure possible. At a time when there is intense discussion of what, exactly, are the qualities of Chinese urbanism, these projects reflect a wide range — from the quasi-fantastical to the fully realizable.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href=";cate=cities">Boston Understories</a>, by Landing Studio (Dan Adams and Lecturer of Urban Design and Planning Marie Law Adams MArch ’06), uses the lens of the regulatory sign to contemplate spaces and activities under highway viaducts. Markers such as “no trespassing” signs fail to reflect the actuality of these sub-infrastructural spaces — where the market forces development into infrastructural margins, ecological systems converge with mobility networks, and public works intermingle with public recreation. Boston Understories introduces a new, more plural taxonomy of signs to encourage, amplify, and make legible actual and imagined collective domains of urban viaduct spaces.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href=";cate=cities">Creative Collectives</a>, from the platau platform for architecture and urbanism (Sandra Frem MS ’09, Boulos Douaihy, and Sabin), looks at the spatial history of the collective in Beirut — from political to social and economic — from 2000 to the present. It also investigates emerging forms of collectives at the intersection of private and communal, such as creative and entrepreneurial clusters. The project imagines a speculative future where Beirut is overlaid by a network of nodes — Creative Collectives — with specific criteria: creative reappropriation of vulnerable urban fabric and open spaces for positive negotiation among conservation, individual modes of practice, and collective experience.&nbsp;</p> <p>The <a href=";cate=cities">Heterotopial City</a> project by Ibañez Kim (Associate Professor Mariana Ibañez, Simon Kim SM ’08, Andrew Homick, Adam Schroth, Sarah Davis, Angeliki Tzifa, Tian Ouyang, and Kyuhun Kim) addresses master planning’s out-of-touch visions for urbanism and architecture; the complex role of citizenship in a highly dispersed communications landscape; and the shifting concept of natures without separate identities such as human/nonhuman, wild/civilized, public/private, and inside/outside. A crypto-city composed of familiar places is the location of new collective commons, synthetic natures, and hybrid environments; this city compresses elements of real metropolises to reveal our current human nature and suggest alternative actions.&nbsp;</p> <p>Introduction to Collective Consequences, by exhibition curators Luna and Yim, revealed their curatorial efforts and decisions as they interpreted the biennale’s main theme of Collective Cities. Collective consequences are an accumulation of multiple layers — the results of both planned and unplanned intentions. The Cities Exhibition was created with open-ended curation to allow for dialogue and chemistry between individual exhibits. The introductory exhibition provided methods for reading a city as a platform to understand different ways of discussing contemporary topics related to cities.</p> <p><a href=";cate=cities">Los Angeles: Towards an Automated Transitopia</a>, from associate professor of planning Andres Sevtsuk and Evan Shieh, envisions the year 2047, when the autonomous vehicle has catalyzed a mobility paradigm shift toward autonomous public transit in Los Angeles. A model of regional urban growth provides methods to combat the negative effects of the private automobile: urban sprawl, traffic congestion, environmental unsustainability, and mobility inequality.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href=";cate=cities">Manila Improstructure</a>, by Dietmar Offenhuber SM ’08 and Katja Schechtner, focuses on social practices in Manila’s streetlight and electricity grid. The project investigates how actors shape the infrastructural system through “improstructure” — infrastructure governance as an improvisational process of “call and response” among a diverse set of actors. This perspective is applied to ongoing modernization efforts by the City of Manila and its utility companies.</p> <p><a href=";cate=cities">Moving Nairobi</a>: Stories of Urban Mobility from the Civic Data Design Lab (project leader Sarah Williams and researchers Carmelo Ignaccolo and Dylan Halpern) explores Nairobi, Kenya — from wealthy neighborhoods to low-income communities — through the eyes of four commuters as they walk, ride motorcycles, take buses, and hire Ubers. Human movement data acquired from Uber and cell phones are presented in animated displays to illustrate the city's congestion; video shows four people's daily commutes, played in sync as their paths are drawn within a map.</p> <p><a href=";cate=cities">Retro-Utopian Alternatives for Belgrade, Serbia</a>, from the Collective Architecture Studio (Associate Professor Ana Miljački and graduate students Rodrigo Cesarman, Stratton Coffman, Sarah Wagner, Catherine Lie, Boliang Du, Gabrielle Heffernan, Benjamin Hoyle, Marisa Waddle, Sydney Cinalli, Yutan Sun, and Eytan Levi) explores both space for the common good and self-managed architectural enterprises through the lens of the architecture of Belgrade in the second half of the 20th century. &nbsp;</p> <p><a href=";cate=cities">Sit(e)lines of a Garden City</a>, by Associate Professor Rafi Segal, Monica Hutton SM ’18, Jung In Seo, and collaborating artist Gili Merin, explores the port city of Haifa, Israel, via its system of urban stairs in the&nbsp; neighborhoods of the garden city of Mount Carmel. Constructed in the 20th century, the stairs are surrounded by multifamily housing and vegetation and cut across varied ethnic neighborhoods, but many stairs are now neglected and without clear jurisdiction. This project explores how urban stairs could strengthen neighborhood identity by expanding and activating leftover green spaces and introducing new, small-scale interior and exterior commercial spaces.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href=";cate=cities">The Big Equalizer</a>, from Oficina de Resiliencia Urbana and Edwina Portocarrero PhD ’18, is an immersive installation exploring the perceptual effects of earthquakes. Outfitted with transducers, a living room's furniture vibrates and the room resonates with sounds collected during Mexico's last devastating earthquakes: live newscasts, chants of rescue workers, personal accounts. Visitors are encouraged to take cover — beneath the table, under the door frame — changing their experience of space and place.</p> Seoul Architecture and Urbanism Biennale attendees interact with the "Sit(e)lines of a Garden City" installation on the port city of Haifa, Israel.Photo courtesy of the researchers.School of Architecture and Planning, Architecture, Korea, Alumni/ae, Faculty, Global, Arts, Design Toward more efficient computing, with magnetic waves Circuit design offers a path to “spintronic” devices that use little electricity and generate practically no heat. Thu, 28 Nov 2019 13:59:59 -0500 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office <p>MIT researchers have devised a novel circuit design that enables precise control of computing with magnetic waves — with no electricity needed. The advance takes a step toward practical magnetic-based devices, which have the potential to compute far more efficiently than electronics.</p> <p>Classical computers rely on massive amounts of electricity for computing and data storage, and generate a lot of wasted heat. In search of more efficient alternatives, researchers have started designing magnetic-based “spintronic” devices, which use relatively little electricity and generate practically no heat.</p> <p>Spintronic devices leverage the “spin wave” — a quantum property of electrons — in magnetic materials with a lattice structure. This approach involves modulating the spin wave properties to produce some measurable output that can be correlated to computation. Until now, modulating spin waves has required injected electrical currents using bulky components that can cause signal noise and effectively negate any inherent performance gains.</p> <p>The MIT researchers developed a circuit architecture that uses only a nanometer-wide domain wall in layered nanofilms of magnetic material to modulate a passing spin wave, without any extra components or electrical current. In turn, the spin wave can be tuned to control the location of the wall, as needed. This provides precise control of two changing spin wave states, which correspond to the 1s and 0s used in classical computing. A paper describing the circuit design was published today in <em>Science</em>.</p> <p>In the future, pairs of spin waves could be fed into the circuit through dual channels, modulated for different properties, and combined to generate some measurable quantum interference — similar to how photon wave interference is used for quantum computing. Researchers hypothesize that such interference-based spintronic devices, like quantum computers, could execute highly complex tasks that conventional computers struggle with.</p> <p>“People are beginning to look for computing beyond silicon. Wave computing is a promising alternative,” says Luqiao Liu, a professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) and principal investigator of the Spintronic Material and Device Group in the Research Laboratory of Electronics. “By using this narrow domain wall, we can modulate the spin wave and create these two separate states, without any real energy costs. We just rely on spin waves and intrinsic magnetic material.”</p> <p>Joining Liu on the paper are Jiahao Han, Pengxiang Zhang, and Justin T. Hou, three graduate students in the Spintronic Material and Device Group; and EECS postdoc Saima A. Siddiqui.</p> <p><strong>Flipping magnons</strong></p> <p>Spin waves are ripples of energy with small wavelengths. Chunks of the spin wave, which are essentially the collective spin of many electrons, are called magnons. While magnons are not true particles, like individual electrons, they can be measured similarly for computing applications.</p> <p>In their work, the researchers utilized a customized “magnetic domain wall,” a nanometer-sized barrier between two neighboring magnetic structures. They layered a pattern of cobalt/nickel nanofilms — each a few atoms thick — with certain desirable magnetic properties that can handle a high volume of spin waves. Then they placed the wall in the middle of a magnetic material with a special lattice structure, and incorporated the system into a circuit.</p> <p>On one side of the circuit, the researchers excited constant spin waves in the material. As the wave passes through the wall, its magnons immediately spin in the opposite direction: Magnons in the first region spin north, while those in the second region — past the wall —&nbsp;spin south. This causes the dramatic shift in the wave’s phase (angle) and slight decrease in magnitude (power).</p> <p>In experiments, the researchers placed a separate antenna on the opposite side of the circuit, that detects and transmits an output signal. Results indicated that, at its output state, the phase of the input wave flipped 180 degrees. The wave’s magnitude — measured from highest to lowest peak —&nbsp;had also decreased by a significant amount.</p> <p><strong>Adding some torque</strong></p> <p>Then, the researchers discovered a mutual interaction between spin wave and domain wall that enabled them to efficiently toggle between two states. Without the domain wall, the circuit would be uniformly magnetized; with the domain wall, the circuit has a split, modulated wave.</p> <p>By controlling the spin wave, they found they could control the position of the domain wall. This relies on a phenomenon called, “spin-transfer torque,” which is when spinning electrons essentially jolt a magnetic material to flip its magnetic orientation.</p> <p>In the researchers’ work, they boosted the power of injected spin waves to induce a certain spin of the magnons. This actually draws the wall toward the boosted wave source. In doing so, the wall gets jammed under the antenna — effectively making it unable to modulate waves and ensuring uniform magnetization in this state.</p> <p>Using a special magnetic microscope, they showed that this method causes a micrometer-size shift in the wall, which is enough to position it anywhere along the material block. Notably, the mechanism of magnon spin-transfer torque was proposed, but not demonstrated, a few years ago. “There was good reason to think this would happen,” Liu says. “But our experiments prove what will actually occur under these conditions.”</p> <p>The whole circuit is like a water pipe, Liu says. The valve (domain wall) controls how the water (spin wave) flows through the pipe (material). “But you can also imagine making water pressure so high, it breaks the valve off and pushes it downstream,” Liu says. “If we apply a strong enough spin wave, we can move the position of domain wall — except it moves slightly upstream, not downstream.”</p> <p>Such innovations could enable practical wave-based computing for specific tasks, such as the signal-processing technique, called “fast Fourier transform.” Next, the researchers hope to build a working wave circuit that can execute basic computations. Among other things, they have to optimize materials, reduce potential signal noise, and further study how fast they can switch between states by moving around the domain wall. “That’s next on our to-do list,” Liu says.</p> An MIT-invented circuit uses only a nanometer-wide “magnetic domain wall” to modulate the phase and magnitude of a spin wave, which could enable practical magnetic-based computing — using little to no electricity.Image courtesy of the researchers, edited by MIT NewsResearch, Computer science and technology, Nanoscience and nanotechnology, Spintronics, electronics, Energy, Quantum computing, Materials Science and Engineering, Design, Research Laboratory of Electronics, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering Transformation by design Skylar Tibbits makes materials that water, heat, or mechanical forces can alter into new shapes. Wed, 27 Nov 2019 12:25:02 -0500 Denis Paiste | Materials Research Laboratory <p>Consider the range of possibilities from 4D printed materials that transform underwater, or fibers that snap into a particular shape when they are cut out of a flat panel, or coaxing shifting sands in the ocean into building artificial islands, and you will have some idea of the breadth of research that&nbsp;<a href="">Skylar Tibbits</a>, MIT associate professor of design research in the Department of Architecture, pursues.<br /> <br /> Tibbits’&nbsp;<a href="">Self-Assembly Lab</a>&nbsp;at MIT demonstrated, through studies in a water tank simulating ocean conditions, that specific geometries could generate self-organizing sand bars and beaches. To test this approach in the real world, the lab is currently conducting field experiments based on their lab work with a group called&nbsp;<a href="">Invena</a>&nbsp;in the Maldives — a chain of islands, or atolls, in the Indian Ocean, many of which are at risk of erosion and, at worst, submersion from rising sea levels.</p> <p>Wind and waves naturally build up sand bars in the ocean environment and just as naturally sweep them away. The idea of the Maldives project is to harness the power of waves and their interaction with specifically placed underwater bladders to promote sand accumulation where it is most needed to protect shorefronts from flooding, rather than building land-based barriers that are inevitably worn away or overwhelmed.</p> <p>Sand alone may not ensure permanency to these “directed” islands, so the Self-Assembly Lab hopes to incorporate vegetation into future efforts, drawing on classic motifs of landscape engineering such as mangrove forests that anchor an ecosystem. “In the bladders underwater, you could seed them with vegetation to make them stay,” Tibbits said in a presentation to the MIT Industrial Liaison Program’s&nbsp;<a href=";tabname=agenda&amp;day=All">Research and Development Conference</a>&nbsp;on Nov. 13.</p> <p>Tibbits also discussed his collaborations on “4D printing,” objects that are formed by multi-material 3D printing but designed to transform over time, whether that transformation is activated by mechanical stress, water absorption, light exposure, or some other mechanism. One method to create adaptable materials is by pairing two different materials that expand or contract at different rates. In a collaboration with Stratasys and Autodesk, he designed a single strand of material that, as soon as it is immersed in water, folds itself into the letters M - I - T.</p> <p>Working with BMW, the Self-Assembly Lab designed&nbsp;<a href="">silicone cushion clusters</a>&nbsp;that are 3D-printed in liquid and can be inflated cell by cell, thus changing their overall shape, stiffness, or movement. This material could be the basis for more comfortable seating that adjusts to individual passengers.</p> <p>The Self-Assembly Lab is conducting active textile research in collaboration with&nbsp;<a href="">Ministry of Supply</a>, fiber extrusion specialty firm&nbsp;<a href="">Hills Inc.</a>, the University of Maine, and Iowa State University. So far, the group has produced sweater yarns that can be heated to conform to an individual wearer’s body shape, with a long-term goal of producing climate-adaptive textiles. This work is partly funded by <a href="">Advanced Functional Fabrics of America</a>, and that portion of the research is administered through the Materials Research Laboratory.</p> <p>The Self-Assembly Lab also developed a method to 3D-print liquid metal into powder that creates fully formed parts that can be lifted out of the powder. The parts are made of a material that can be re-melted to form new parts.</p> <p>Using carbon-based materials in a project for Airbus, the Self-Assembly Lab developed thin blades that can fold and curl by themselves to control the airflow to the engine. The “programmable” carbon work was carried out with Carbitex LLC, Autodesk, and MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms.</p> <p>For a chair project with Biesse and Wood-Skin, the Self-Assembly Lab designed a small table that marries 3D-printed wood fiber panels and pre-stressed textiles. The table can be shipped flat, then jump into several different arrangements because of the flexibility of the textile.</p> <p>By 3D-printing a stiffer material in a circular pattern onto a flat mesh, for example, the researchers showed that cutting out the circle from the flat plane causes it to snap into a hyperbolic parabola shape. The researchers include MIT computer science Professor Erik Demaine; Christophe Guberan, a visiting product designer from Switzerland; and David Costanza MA ’13, SM ’15.</p> <p>Tibbits worked with Steelcase to develop a process for 3D printing plastic into liquid for furniture parts, called rapid liquid printing. This process prints within a gel bath to provide support for the printed parts and minimize the effect of gravity. With this printing technique they can print centimeter- to meter-scale parts in minutes to hours with a range of high-quality industrial materials like silicone rubber, polyurethane, and acrylics.</p> <p>The common theme across all these different projects is Tibbits’ belief that the future of industrial production lies in the transformative power of harnessing smart, programmable materials. “We want to think about what’s coming next and see if we can really lead that,” Tibbits says.</p> The Maldives, a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean, are at risk of erosion and, at worst, submersion from rising sea levels. MIT's Skylar Tibbits is conducting field experiments with a group called Invena in the Maldives to harness the power of waves with underwater bladders to promote sand accumulation where it is most needed to protect shorelines from flooding.Photo: Denis Paiste/Materials Research LaboratoryMaterials Research Laboratory, Architecture, Center for Bits and Atoms, 3-D printing, 4-D printing, Self-assembly, Faculty, Special events and guest speakers, School of Architecture and Planning First-years learn fundamental principles by creating Course 2.00a (Fundamentals of Engineering Design: Explore Space, Sea and Earth) empowers first-year students to build machines early in their academic careers. Wed, 27 Nov 2019 00:00:00 -0500 Mary Beth Gallagher | Department of Mechanical Engineering <p>Many first-year students arriving on campus each year share a driving force that brought them to MIT — a passion for making. Whether it’s tinkering with robots, building motors, or designing devices, they are eager to create something tangible during their time at MIT. Typically, an engineering curriculum starts by introducing key concepts and fundamentals, delaying the act of creation until later in the undergraduate experience.</p> <p>In class 2.00a (Fundamentals of Engineering Design: Explore Space, Sea and Earth) first-year students are tasked with designing and building their own machine so they can see first-hand how the fundamentals they are learning apply to real-world scenarios.</p> <p>“A lot of students come to MIT motivated to actually creating something, but they might have to wait until junior or senior year in some cases,” explains Daniel Frey, professor of mechanical engineering. “I want to give them a chance to experience what it’s like to build and create in their first year.”</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>The course introduces students to key principles and themes in design and engineering. Students get a crash course in MATLAB and CAD programming like SolidWorks. They learn the fundamental principles that govern structures, controls, and mechanics. By the third week of the semester, they are divided into teams that work together to conceptualize, design, and build a machine.</p> <p>“This class really forces you to dive into the deep-end of the pool and see what you can make,” says Jason Ramirez, a current sophomore studying mechanical engineering who took 2.00a last spring.</p> <p>Each year, the item students are tasked with building changes. Every project has hinged upon one central theme: exploration. The subtitle for Course 2.00a is, after all, “Explore Space, Sea and Earth.”</p> <p>According to Ramirez, this theme of exploring is central to mechanical engineering. “I think that mechanical engineering in and of itself is about exploring — mechanical engineers like asking questions and trying to find solutions to problems,” he says.</p> <p>In the past, projects included assessing the stability of a ship, using remote controlled aircrafts and robotic harvesters to clear watermilfoil growth in a lake, and searching for the existence of life on one of Jupiter’s moons.&nbsp;</p> <p>On the surface, the theme of this year’s projects was quite simple. Students were charged with building something with the theme of "flying." The resulting projects, however, were anything but simple. “This particular year everyone was swinging for the fences. They were all really trying to do something ambitious,” recalls Frey.</p> <p>This year’s projects included both a "butterfly plane" and a bird-shaped plane, complete with flapping wings. While these ambitious designs gave students experience in making, they also introduced them to something nearly every engineer experiences throughout their career: failure.</p> <p>While most design courses taken later in a students’ academic career have the end-goal of a successful product, Frey and his teaching team see value in giving first-year students the room to fail.</p> <p>“I think early enough in the sequence of design courses a student takes, there should be the option for students to go out on a limb, tackle a particularly hard project, and give it the ‘old college try,’” Frey says.</p> <p>Ramirez’s team met failure a few times throughout the design process. “We definitely failed a lot, but I think that there is a lot of learning in that,” he says.</p> <p>One of the many things the project instills in students is how to work with fellow students to achieve a goal. As student teams worked together on refining their designs, Frey and the staff at the MIT International Design Center helped guide students’ visions and assist in the operation of machinery.</p> <p>Along with other first-year courses 2.00 (Introduction to Design) and 2.00b (Toy Product Design), the class is meant to give first-year students a taste of what studying mechanical engineering at MIT will be like.</p> <p>“The classes 2.00, 2.00a, and 2.00b are like an advertisement, not just for the Department of Mechanical Engineering, but for the particular way we want students to learn which really embodies MIT’s motto ‘mens et manus<em>,</em>’” adds Frey.</p> <p>Last spring, Naomi Michael entered the class unsure of what major she would declare at the end of the year. For her, 2.00a tipped the scales toward mechanical engineering.</p> <p>“The class gave me a good framework for thinking about the rest of Course 2,” says Michael, who is now a sophomore studying mechanical engineering. “2.00a does a good job of giving you a foundation across a lot of different subjects you’ll encounter within mechanical engineering including statics, MATLAB, and CAD. While these fundamentals will be covered in greater depth in later classes, it’s nice to have some familiarity with what they are and what they can do.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Like Michael, this insight into the topics that students will learn during four years of studying mechanical engineering helped strengthen Ramirez’s own decision to declare Course 2. “2.00a has shown me all the fun things mechanical engineering has to offer in the next four years,” he explains.</p> <p>Course 2.00a has also armed Ramirez with a new perspective on how to approach the rest of his time at MIT. “The class showed me that MIT isn’t just about staying in your room working on p-sets at your desk,” he says. “You can get out, explore, and work on projects you actually care about.”</p> Rodrigo Vasquez examines his team's final project, a plane that also acts a boat on water.Photo: Jiani ZengClasses and programs, Mechanical engineering, School of Engineering, Undergraduate, Students, Education, teaching, academics, Design Designing humanity’s future in space The Space Exploration Initiative’s latest research flight explores work and play in microgravity. Tue, 26 Nov 2019 15:20:01 -0500 Janine Liberty | MIT Media Lab <p>How will dancers perform in space? How will scientists do lab experiments without work tables? How will artists pursue crafting in microgravity? How can exercise, gastronomy, research, and other uniquely human endeavors be reimagined for the unique environment of space? These are the questions that drove the <a href="">14 projects</a> aboard the MIT Media Lab Space Exploration Initiative’s second parabolic research flight.</p> <p>Just past the 50th anniversary of the Apollo moon landing, humanity’s life in space isn’t so very far away. Virgin Galactic just opened its spaceport with the goal of launching space tourists into orbit within months, not years; Blue Origin’s New Shepard rocket is gearing up to carry its first human cargo to the edge of space, with New Glenn and a moon mission not far behind. We are nearing a future where trained, professional astronauts aren’t the only people who will regularly leave Earth. The new Space Age will reach beyond the technical and scientific achievements of getting people into space and keeping them alive there; the next frontier is bringing our creativity, our values, our personal pursuits and hobbies with us, and letting them evolve into a new culture unique to off-planet life.&nbsp;</p> <p>But unlike the world of Star Trek, there’s no artificial gravity capability in sight. Any time spent in space will, for the foreseeable future, mean life without weight, and without the rules of gravity that govern every aspect of life on the ground. Through its annual parabolic flight charter with the ZERO-G Research Program, the Space Exploration Initiative (SEI) is actively anticipating and solving for the challenges of microgravity.</p> <p><strong>Space for everyone</strong></p> <p>SEI’s first zero-gravity flight, in 2017, set a high bar for the <a href="">caliber of the projects</a>, but it was also a learning experience in doing research in 20-second bursts of microgravity. In preparation for an annual research flight, SEI founder and lead Ariel Ekblaw organized MIT's first graduate course for parabolic flights (<a href="">Prototyping Our Sci-Fi Space Future: Zero Gravity Flight Class</a>) with the goal of preparing researchers for the realities of parabolic flights, from the rigors of the preflight test readiness review inspections to project hardware considerations and mid-flight adjustments.</p> <p>The class also served to take some of the intimidation factor out of the prospect of space research and focused on democratizing access to microgravity testbed environments.&nbsp;</p> <p>“The addition of the course helped us build bridges across other departments at MIT and take the time to document and open-source our mentorship process for robust, creative, and rigorous experiments,” says Ekblaw.</p> <p>SEI’s mission of democratizing access to space is broad: It extends to actively recruiting researchers, artists, and designers, whose work isn’t usually associated with space, as well as ensuring that the traditional engineering and hard sciences of space research are open to people of all genders, nationalities, and identities. This proactive openness was manifest in every aspect of this year’s microgravity flight.&nbsp;</p> <p>While incubated in the Media Lab, the Space Exploration Initiative now supports research across MIT. Paula do Vale Pereira, a grad student in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AeroAsto), was on board to test out automated actuators for <a href="">CubeSats</a>. Tim McGrath and Jeremy Stroming, also from AeroAstro, built an <a href="">erg machine</a> specially designed for exercise in microgravity. Chris Carr and Maria Zuber, of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, flew to test out the latest iteration of their <a href="">Electronic Life-detection Instrument</a> (ELI) research.</p> <p>Research specialist Maggie Coblentz is pursuing her fascination with food in space — including the world’s first <a href="">molecular gastronomy experiment</a> in microgravity. She also custom-made an astronaut’s helmet specially designed to accommodate a multi-course tasting menu, allowing her to experiment with different textures and techniques to make both food and eating more enjoyable on long space flights.&nbsp;</p> <p>“The function of food is not simply to provide nourishment — it’s a key creature comfort in spaceflight and will play an even more significant role on long-duration space travel and future life in space habitats. I hope to uncover new food cultures and food preparation techniques by evoking the imagination and sense of play in space, Willy Wonka style,” says Coblentz.</p> <p>With <a href="">Sensory Synchrony</a>, a project supported by NASA's <span class="st">Translational Research Institute for Space Health</span>, Abhi Jain and fellow researchers in the Media Lab's Fluid Interfaces group investigated vestibular neuromodulation techniques for mitigating the effects of motion sickness caused by the sensory mismatch in microgravity. The team will iterate on the data from this flight to consider possibilities for novel experiences using augmented and virtual reality in microgravity environments.</p> <p>The Space Enabled research group is testing how paraffin wax behaves as a liquid in microgravity, exploring it as an affordable, accessible alternative satellite fuel. Their microgravity experiment, run by Juliet Wanyiri, aimed to determine the speed threshold, and corresponding voltage, needed for the wax to form into a shape called an annulus, which is one of the preferred geometric shapes to store satellite fuel. “This will help us understand what design might be appropriate to use wax as a satellite fuel for an on-orbit mission in the future,” explains Wanyiri.</p> <p>Xin Liu flew for the second time this year, with a new project that continues her explorations into the relationship between <a href="">couture</a>, <a href="">movement</a>, and self-expression when an artist is released from the constraints of gravity. This year’s project, <a href="">Mollastica</a>, is a mollusk-inspired costume designed to swell and float in microgravity. Liu also motion-captured a body performance to be rendered later for a “deep-sea-to-deep-space” video work.</p> <p><strong>The human experience</strong></p> <p>The extraordinary range of fields, goals, projects, and people represented on this year’s microgravity flight speaks to the unique role the Space Exploration Initiative is already starting to play in the future of space.&nbsp;</p> <p>For designer and researcher Alexis Hope, the flight offered the opportunity to discover how weightlessness affects the creative process — how it changes not only the art, but also the artist. Her project, <a href="">Space/Craft</a>, was an experiment in zero-g sculpture: exploring the artistic processes and possibilities enabled by microgravity by using a hot glue gun to "draw in 3D."</p> <p>Like all of the researchers aboard the flight, Hope found the experience both challenging and inspiring. Her key takeaway, she says, is excitement for all the unexplored possibilities of art, crafting, and creativity in space.</p> <p>“Humans always find a way to express themselves creatively, and I expect no different in a zero-gravity environment,” she says. “I’m excited for new materials that will behave in interesting ways in a zero-gravity environment, and curious about how those new materials might inspire future artists to create novel structures, forms, and physical expressions.”</p> <p>Ekblaw herself spent the flight testing out the latest iteration of <a href="">TESSERAE</a>, her self-assembling space architecture prototype. The research has matured extensively over the last year and a half, including a recent <a href="">suborbital test flight</a> with Blue Origin and an upcoming International Space Station mission to take place in early 2020.&nbsp;</p> <p>All of the research projects from this year’s flight — as well as some early results, the projects from the Blue Origin flight, and the early prototypes for the ISS mission — were on display at a recent SEI open house at the Media Lab.&nbsp;</p> <p>For Ekblaw, the great challenge and the great opportunity in these recurring research flights is helping researchers to keep their projects and goals realistic in the moment, while keeping SEI’s gaze firmly fixed on the future.&nbsp;</p> <p>“While parabolic flights are already a remarkable experience, this year was particularly meaningful for us. We had the immense privilege of finalizing our pre-flight testing over the exact days when Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Mike Collins were in microgravity on their way to the moon,” she says. “This 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 reminds us that the next 50 years of interplanetary civilization beckons. We are all now part of this — designing, building, and testing artifacts for our human, lived experience of space.”</p> <div></div> Chris Carr and Maria Zuber of the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences have a little fun while monitoring their life-detection data experiment in microgravity.Photo: Steve Boxall/ZERO-GMedia Lab, EAPS, School of Architecture and Planning, Space, astronomy and planetary science, Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, School of Science, School of Engineering, Arts, Technology and society, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences Zach Lieberman joins MIT Media Lab New adjunct associate professor combines fine arts and coding. Mon, 25 Nov 2019 13:10:01 -0500 Janine Liberty | MIT Media Lab <p>Artist and educator Zach Lieberman has been appointed as an adjunct associate professor of media arts and sciences at the Media Lab. As of the fall 2019 semester, he is teaching courses and working on projects at the lab under the aegis of his newly founded research group, <a href="" target="_blank">Future Sketches</a>.</p> <p>A new-media artist with a background in fine arts, Lieberman creates animations, public art, and installations that explore the relationship between computation, art, and movement. He holds degrees from Hunter College and Parsons School of Design, has been artist-in-residence at Ars Electronica Futurelab, Eyebeam, Dance Theater Workshop, and the Hangar Center for the Arts in Barcelona, and his work has been exhibited around the world. He is one of the co-founders of openFrameworks, a C++ library for creative coding.</p> <p>Lieberman is particularly drawn to coding as a mode of expression, comparing it to poetry in its dichotomy between precision and infinite variation. “What I like about poetry is that it’s an art form where you’re using really precise words in a certain order to describe what it means to be human, what it means to be alive. It’s an art form that’s about precision with language,” says Lieberman. “And coding is really about precision, too, with an artificial language. You’re using language in a very specific order to make something emerge.”</p> <p>His interest in code as a creative medium led Lieberman to found the School for Poetic Computation in 2013, an alternative school for art and technology in New York, where he continues to teach and advise. Lieberman also has a longstanding affinity for, and affiliation with, the Media Lab, citing John Maeda’s book “Design By Numbers” as a crucial influence. He worked with Golan Levin, a Media Lab alum from Maeda’s Aesthetics and Computation group, on a series of audiovisual projects under the moniker Tmema.</p> <p>Lieberman also points to Media Lab founding faculty member Muriel Cooper as an inspiration and exemplar; his research group’s name, Future Sketches, is an homage to her. “The name comes from Muriel Cooper, whose work means a lot to me. She has this letter that she wrote for <em>Plan Magazine</em> in 1980, with a <a href="">12-page spread</a> of all the work being done in her Visual Language Workshop. She finished that letter with, ‘This stands as a sketch for the future.’ My work is dedicated to exploring this tradition.”</p> <p>“We’re really thrilled to have Zach join us at the lab,” says Tod Machover, Muriel R. Cooper Professor of Music and Media, who directs the Opera of the Future research group and is academic head of the Program in Media Arts and Sciences. “In addition to carrying on the legacy of Muriel Cooper that’s so intrinsic to the lab in a playful and thoughtful way, Zach is also committed to mentorship and fostering creativity. He has already become a kind of artistic Pied Piper to many of our students, in the loveliest, most productive way. I believe that Zach’s work and pedagogy will have a profound impact on the future fabric of the Media Lab.”</p> Artwork by Zach LiebermanImage: Zach LiebermanMedia Lab, School of Architecture and Planning, Technology and society, Design, Computer science and technology, Faculty Interdisciplinary team takes top prize in Mars colony design competition MIT PhD student George Lordos and his brother Alexandros led the project; goal of the Mars Society competition was to establish a colony on Mars for 1,000 residents. Mon, 25 Nov 2019 12:15:01 -0500 Sara Cody | Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics <p>Every 75 years, Halley’s Comet makes a triumphant return to the inner solar system, becoming visible to the naked eye from the Earth’s surface as it streaks across the night sky. In 1986, brothers George and Alexandros Lordos, who helped found the astronomy club at their high school in Cyprus, decided they were not going to miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity despite the cloudy weather.</p> <p>“Together with friends, we borrowed camping supplies from the hiking club and hiked up familiar terrain on Troodos Mountain to a cloudless spot that was 5,000 feet above sea level, miles away from city lights” says George Lordos, MBA ’00, SM ’18. “When we unzipped our tent at 3 o’clock in the morning, Halley’s comet was right in front of us, in all its glory. It was like seeing a ghost ship floating on a sea of stars.”</p> <p>Recently, the brothers again combined their shared passion with their professional expertise to team up and develop <a href="" target="_blank">Star City</a>, a concept for a human city on Mars. Their design won first place at the Mars Colony Prize Design contest, which was hosted by the Mars Society and judged by a panel that included experts from NASA and SpaceX.</p> <p>Today, Lordos is a PhD candidate in the Engineering Systems Laboratory at MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the head teaching assistant at MIT’s System Design and Management Program, researching sustainable human space settlement architectures with professors Olivier de Weck and Jeffrey Hoffman. His brother, Alexandros Lordos, is currently the director of the Center for the Study of Life Skills and Resilience at the Department of Psychology at the University of Cyprus, and head of learning and innovation at the Center for Sustainable Peace and Democratic Development, researching the development of integrated systems to foster mental health and social cohesion in countries facing conflict-related adversities.</p> <p>“In addition to addressing the engineering requirements to put humans on Mars, the overall philosophy of our approach was to provide the residents with a diverse array of capabilities, rather than ready-made solutions, relying on the human capacity to be resourceful and resilient in addressing the many unknown challenges that will arise,” says Lordos. “This ensures not only their survival, but also that their well-being, agency, and capacity to grow will be duly considered so they may thrive there as well.”</p> <p>The goal of the competition was to establish a successful colony on Mars for 1,000 residents. One hundred entrants from around the world submitted proposals, which were eventually narrowed to 10 finalists who presented their proposals at the 22nd Annual Mars Society Convention in October. The criteria for the judges’ consideration included technical merit, economic viability, social and political organization, and aesthetics.</p> <p>Using abundant energy supplies and heavy equipment, Star City’s residents will first focus on carving out habitats by tunneling inside a crater rim to create networks of living and work spaces. By working with the natural topography of Mars, the residents will be able to develop large habitable spaces that will be safe from radiation and other dangers. At the same time, the excavated material will be mined for water and useful minerals that can then support local industry and the growth of self-sustaining crops through hydroponics. From there, they would continue to build around the crater rim to create residential and commercial areas that contain shops, restaurants, and libraries, eventually pooling their resources to develop the city’s central hub, which will house Mars University and other shared facilities.</p> <p>“The idea is to start with five distinct villages that will be constructed around the crater rim, each aiming for a population of 200 residents within a decade of the first landing, and originating from different Earth continents,” says Lordos. “The five villages will interconnect their tunnel networks and focus on continuous growth of their habitats, capabilities, stocks of resources, and quality of life.”</p> <p>According to Alexandros, the wheel-like physical layout is one of the key mechanisms to build an organic sense of community among Star City residents, which is essential to their well-being as they navigate the challenges of living together on a distant planet. Proximity will enable each village to have access to the other four for material and social support, inspiration, leisure, new ideas, different solutions to common challenges, and socialization. By teaming up to address survival challenges and achieve aspirational goals, they will establish a support network completely unique to Star City so residents can better navigate through times of difficulty.</p> <p>“Drawing on cumulative insights from the social sciences and our own experience in developing systems to support societies facing extreme adversities, we have identified core aspects of the human condition that will be relevant for socio-economic development on Mars,” says Alexandros. “Specifically, we considered the pivotal role that individual as well as community resilience will be expected to play on Mars, sought to ensure a balance between survival-orientation and self-expression in everyone’s daily life, while making room for Star City residents to develop multi-layered identities as members of their more intimate village communities and, at the same time, as citizens of a vibrant and forward-looking technological civilization.”</p> <p>In addition to building community by nurturing the well-being of its human residents, Star City will also build a viable economy and political system to ensure that commerce and governance provide stability for its residents. To pay for importing much-needed supplies from Earth in the short term, Star City residents will leverage their local know-how, infrastructure, and heavy equipment to provide construction services to others who may wish to build a city on Mars. In the long term, Star City could establish itself as a central hub for innovation, entrepreneurship, and tourism as humanity travels farther and farther into the reaches of space.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“Our vision is not to simply send human explorers to Mars in order to set up these scientific outposts where we can perform useful experiments, though that is an important and valuable component,” says Robert Zubrin, president of Pioneer Astronautics and the founder and president of the Mars Society, who organized the contest and served on the panel of judges. “The fundamental question we are asking is if we can expand human civilization into other worlds. Of course, you have to have the correct technical analysis, but there are all of these other human dimensions to make a colony on Mars work, and Star City addressed those in the most successful way.”</p> <p>The Star City sociotechnical concept and urban plan was created by George and Alexandros Lordos, with architectural support for the creation of design studies, drawings, and renderings by lead architects Nikos Papapanousis and Tatiana Kouppa, and their team members Efi Koutsaftaki, Aliki Noula, and Aris Michailidis of Delta Architects, Athens, Greece.</p> Star City, a concept for a human city on Mars, won first place at the Mars Colony Prize Design contest. The design, led by MIT PhD student George Lordos and his brother Alexandros, features five villages constructed around a crater rim.Image: Star City Team/Delta ArchitectsAeronautical and astronautical engineering, School of Engineering, Mars, Design, Arts, space, Space, astronomy and planetary science, System Design and Management, Contests and academic competitions, NASA, Alumni/ae MIT art installation aims to empower a more discerning public With “In Event of Moon Disaster,” the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality aims to educate the public on deepfakes with an alternative history of the moon landing. Mon, 25 Nov 2019 11:30:01 -0500 Suzanne Day | MIT Open Learning <p>Videos doctored by artificial intelligence, culturally known as “deepfakes,” are being created and shared by the public at an alarming rate. Using advanced computer graphics and audio processing to realistically emulate speech and mannerisms, deepfakes have the power to distort reality, erode truth, and spread misinformation. In a troubling example, researchers around the world have sounded the alarm that they carry significant potential to influence American voters in the 2020 elections.&nbsp;</p> <p>While technology companies race to develop ways to detect and control deepfakes on social media platforms, and lawmakers search for ways to regulate them, a team of artists and computer scientists led by the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality have designed an art installation to empower and educate the public on how to discern reality from deepfakes on their own.</p> <p>“Computer-based misinformation is a global challenge,” says Fox Harrell, professor of digital media and of artificial intelligence at MIT and director of the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality. “We are galvanized to make a broad impact on the literacy of the public, and we are committed to using AI not for misinformation, but for truth. We are pleased to bring onboard people such as our new XR Creative Director Francesca Panetta to help further this mission.”</p> <p>Panetta is the director of “In Event of Moon Disaster,” along with co-director Halsey Burgund, a fellow in the MIT Open Documentary Lab. She says, “We hope that our work will spark critical awareness among the public. We want them to be alert to what is possible with today’s technology, to explore their own susceptibility, and to be ready to question what they see and hear as we enter a future fraught with challenges over the question of truth.”</p> <p>With “In Event of Moon Disaster,” which opened Friday at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, the team has reimagined the story of the moon landing. Installed in a 1960s-era living room, audiences are invited to sit on vintage furniture surrounded by three screens, including a vintage television set. The screens play an edited array of vintage footage from NASA, taking the audience on a journey from takeoff into space and to the moon. Then, on the center television, Richard Nixon reads a contingency speech written for him by his speech writer, Bill Safire, “in event of moon disaster” which he was to read if the Apollo 11 astronauts had not been able to return to Earth. In this installation, Richard Nixon reads this speech from the Oval Office.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>To recreate this moving elegy that never happened, the team used deep learning techniques and the contributions of a voice actor to build the voice of Richard Nixon, producing a synthetic speech working with the Ukranian-based company Respeecher. They also worked with Israeli company Canny AI to use video dialogue replacement techniques to study and replicate the movement of Nixon’s mouth and lips, making it look as though he is reading this very speech from the Oval Office. The resulting video is highly believable, highlighting the possibilities of deepfake technology today.</p> <p>The researchers chose to create a deepfake of this historical moment for a number of reasons: Space is a widely loved topic, so potentially engaging to a wide audience; the piece is apolitical and less likely to alienate, unlike a lot of misinformation; and, as the 1969 moon landing is an event widely accepted by the general public to have taken place, the deepfake elements will be starkly obvious.&nbsp;</p> <p>Rounding out the educational experience, “In Event of Moon Disaster” transparently provides information regarding what is possible with today’s technology, and the goal of increasing public awareness and ability to identify misinformation in the form of deepfakes. This will be in the form of newspapers written especially for the exhibit which detail the making of the installation, how to spot a deepfake, and the most current work being done in algorithmic detection. Audience participants will be encouraged to take this away.</p> <p>"Our goal was to use the most advanced artificial intelligence techniques available today to create the most believable result possible — and then point to it and say, ‘This is fake; here’s how we did it; and here’s why we did it,’” says Burgund.</p> <p>While the physical installation opens in November 2019 in Amsterdam, the team is building a web-based version that is expected to go live in spring 2020.</p> "In Event of Moon Disaster" reimagines the story of the first moon landing as if the Apollo 11 astronauts had not been able to return to Earth. It was created to highlight the concern about computer-based misinformation, or "deepfakes."Photo: Chris BoebelOffice of Open Learning, Augmented and virtual reality, Machine learning, Artificial intelligence, History, Space exploration, Film and Television, Arts, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Comparative Media Studies/Writing, NASA, Computer science and technology, Technology and society, History of science, School of Engineering, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences How to design and control robots with stretchy, flexible bodies Optimizing soft robots to perform specific tasks is a huge computational problem, but a new model can help. Fri, 22 Nov 2019 00:00:00 -0500 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office <p>MIT researchers have invented a way to efficiently optimize the control and design of soft robots for target tasks, which has traditionally been a monumental undertaking in computation.</p> <p>Soft robots have springy, flexible, stretchy bodies that can essentially move an infinite number of ways at any given moment. Computationally, this represents a highly complex “state representation,” which describes how each part of the robot is moving. State representations for soft robots can have potentially millions of dimensions, making it difficult to calculate the optimal way to make a robot complete complex tasks.</p> <p>At the Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems next month, the MIT researchers will present a model that learns a compact, or “low-dimensional,” yet detailed state representation, based on the underlying physics of the robot and its environment, among other factors. This helps the model iteratively co-optimize movement control and material design parameters catered to specific tasks.</p> <p>“Soft robots are infinite-dimensional creatures that bend in a billion different ways at any given moment,” says first author Andrew Spielberg, a graduate student in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL). “But, in truth, there are natural ways soft objects are likely to bend. We find the natural states of soft robots can be described very compactly in a low-dimensional description. We optimize control and design of soft robots by learning a good description of the likely states.”</p> <p>In simulations, the model enabled 2D and 3D soft robots to complete tasks — such as moving certain distances or reaching a target spot —more quickly and accurately than current state-of-the-art methods. The researchers next plan to implement the model in real soft robots.</p> <p>Joining Spielberg on the paper are CSAIL graduate students Allan Zhao, Tao Du, and Yuanming Hu; Daniela Rus, director of CSAIL and the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science; and Wojciech Matusik, an MIT associate professor in electrical engineering and computer science and head of the Computational Fabrication Group.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p><strong>“Learning-in-the-loop”</strong></p> <p>Soft robotics is a relatively new field of research, but it holds promise for advanced robotics. For instance, flexible bodies could offer safer interaction with humans, better object manipulation, and more maneuverability, among other benefits.</p> <p>Control of robots in simulations relies on an “observer,” a program that computes variables that see how the soft robot is moving to complete a task. In previous work, the researchers decomposed the soft robot into hand-designed clusters of simulated particles. Particles contain important information that help narrow down the robot’s possible movements. If a robot attempts to bend a certain way, for instance, actuators may resist that movement enough that it can be ignored. But, for such complex robots, manually choosing which clusters to track during simulations can be tricky.</p> <p>Building off that work, the researchers designed a “learning-in-the-loop optimization” method, where all optimized parameters are learned during a single feedback loop over many simulations. And, at the same time as learning optimization —&nbsp;or “in the loop” — the method also learns the state representation.</p> <p>The model employs a technique called a material point method (MPM), which simulates the behavior of particles of continuum materials, such as foams and liquids, surrounded by a background grid. In doing so, it captures the particles of the robot and its observable environment into pixels or 3D pixels, known as voxels, without the need of any additional computation. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>In a learning phase, this raw particle grid information is fed into a machine-learning component that learns to input an image, compress it to a low-dimensional representation, and decompress the representation back into the input image. If this “autoencoder” retains enough detail while compressing the input image, it can accurately recreate the input image from the compression.</p> <p>In the researchers’ work, the autoencoder’s learned compressed representations serve as the robot’s low-dimensional state representation. In an optimization phase, that compressed representation loops back into the controller, which outputs a calculated actuation for how each particle of the robot should move in the next MPM-simulated step.</p> <p>Simultaneously, the controller uses that information to adjust the optimal stiffness for each particle to achieve its desired movement. In the future, that material information can be useful for 3D-printing soft robots, where each particle spot may be printed with slightly different stiffness. “This allows for creating robot designs catered to the robot motions that will be relevant to specific tasks,” Spielberg says. “By learning these parameters together, you keep everything as synchronized as much as possible to make that design process easier.”</p> <p><strong>Faster optimization</strong></p> <p>All optimization information is, in turn, fed back into the start of the loop to train the autoencoder. Over many simulations, the controller learns the optimal movement and material design, while the autoencoder learns the increasingly more detailed state representation. “The key is we want that low-dimensional state to be very descriptive,” Spielberg says.</p> <p>After the robot gets to its simulated final state over a set period of time —&nbsp;say, as close as possible to the target destination —&nbsp;it updates a “loss function.” That’s a critical component of machine learning, which tries to minimize some error. In this case, it minimizes, say, how far away the robot stopped from the target. That loss function flows back to the controller, which uses the error signal to tune all the optimized parameters to best complete the task.</p> <p>If the researchers tried to directly feed all the raw particles of the simulation into the controller, without the compression step, “running and optimization time would explode,” Spielberg says. Using the compressed representation, the researchers were able to decrease the running time for each optimization iteration from several minutes down to about 10 seconds.</p> <p>The researchers validated their model on simulations of various 2D and 3D biped and quadruped robots. They researchers also found that, while robots using traditional methods can take up to 30,000 simulations to optimize these parameters, robots trained on their model took only about 400 simulations.</p> <p>"Our goal is to enable quantum leaps in the way engineers go from specification to design, prototyping, and programming of soft robots. In this paper, we explore the potential of co-optimizing the body and control system of a soft robot can lead the rapid creation of soft bodied robots customized to the tasks they have to do," Rus says.</p> <p>Deploying the model into real soft robots means tackling issues with real-world noise and uncertainty that may decrease the model’s efficiency and accuracy. But, in the future, the researchers hope to design a full pipeline, from simulation to fabrication, for soft robots.</p> An MIT-invented model efficiently and simultaneously optimizes control and design of soft robots for target tasks, which has traditionally been a monumental undertaking in computation. The model, for instance, was significantly faster and more accurate than state-of-the-art methods at simulating how quadrupedal robots (pictured) should move to reach target destinations.Image courtesy of the researchersResearch, Computer science and technology, Algorithms, Robots, Robotics, Soft robotics, Design, 3-D printing, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering High school students learn about commercial real estate through the Center for Real Estate Residential course provides immersive experience for 28 juniors and seniors from around the United States. Tue, 19 Nov 2019 15:55:01 -0500 School of Architecture and Planning <p>Seeking a way to introduce culturally diverse high school students to the study of commercial real estate, the MIT Center for Real Estate (CRE) has created a 12-day, in-residence course and welcomed 28 juniors and seniors to campus this past summer. Participants came from high schools in Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.</p> <p>To develop the program, which launched in July and will run again in summer 2020, CRE collaborated with the nonprofit NEXUS Summer Programs. The Real Estate Executive Council (REEC, a national trade association established to promote the interests of minority executives in commercial real estate) and NAIOP Massachusetts (the local office of the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, formerly the National Association for Industrial and Office Parks), provided support to bring the student participants to campus.</p> <p>“We exist to provide college-bound teens with the tools needed to thrive on campus,” says Ric Ramsey, founder of NEXUS Summer Programs. “Alongside a focus on both academic and career development, NEXUS also provides immersive experiences in self-discovery, including opportunities to build confidence and self-sufficiency away from home.”</p> <p>In addition to learning about the fundamental aspects of commercial real estate, participants received SAT prep and presentation coaching from industry experts, and were introduced to the many career opportunities available within the industry. In their post-program evaluations, the student participants gave the program’s modules consistently high ratings.</p> <p>“The NEXUS program is a critical component in helping our industry attract new talent from a diverse population,” says Reesa Fischer, executive director of NAIOP Massachusetts, “We were so impressed with the potential of these students and their enthusiasm about commercial real estate.”</p> <p>Residential housing, hospitality, and commercial real estate development projects are booming in the Boston, Massachusetts area, largely in response to shopping trends and the shifting needs of area residents. In addition to traditional classroom instruction about commercial real estate, participants toured the sites of two local commercial development projects, organized by CRE alumni.</p> <p>A tour of Hub on Causeway, a dynamic, mixed-use property at the original Boston Garden, was organized by Melissa Schrock MSRED ’12, vice president of development at Boston Properties. Closer to campus, Amanda Strong MSRED ’02, director of asset management for the MIT Investment Management Company (MITIMCo), coordinated a tour of Kendall Square at MIT, the massive redevelopment project taking place on and adjacent to the MIT campus. The program also featured site tours of the Fenway by Samuels and Associates, a local development firm working in that area, that included a tour of Fenway Park.</p> <p>In addition, Marcella Barriere MSRED ’13, a real estate project executive at Google, organized a tour of the corporate office and provided presentation space. After coaching, site tours, and discussion, the student teams formally pitched their commercial real estate project ideas to a panel of judges at Google headquarters.</p> <p>The institutional collaboration enabled the participating organizations to advance shared goals. “REEC is very excited to have NAIOP and MIT join our efforts to transform the composition of the real estate industry,” says Kirk Sykes, the chairman of REEC’s board of directors.</p> <p>“It was important for CRE to host NEXUS,” says Kelly Cameron, CRE’s career development officer. “We need culturally diverse students to see MIT as a viable school choice when it’s time to start applying to colleges and universities, but also to see commercial real estate as an actual career option — I think we accomplished both.”</p> NEXUS program participants pose with the MIT seal in Lobby 7. The NEXUS program provides college-bound students with the tools needed to thrive on campus, focusing on academic and career development, and offers opportunities to build confidence and self-sufficiency away from home. Photo: Taidgh McClorySchool of Architecture and Planning, Center for Real Estate, Architecture, Urban studies and planning, Diversity and inclusion, K-12 education, Classes and programs, Education, teaching, academics, Careers, Real estate The technology of enchantment In a new anthropology and studio art course, MIT students investigate the human dimensions of interacting with technologies. Thu, 07 Nov 2019 00:00:00 -0500 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p>An audible gasp goes through the classroom as Seth Riskin, manager of the MIT Museum Studio and Compton Gallery, uses his hand to trace streams of light through the empty air. The illusion is a simple one: Gradually turning up the speed on a strobe light, Riskin creates the visual magic by sweeping his hand through the rapidly changing beam.</p> <p>A strobe light is hardly the most advanced technology found in an MIT lab, but as co-instructor and professor of anthropology Graham Jones comments, “In 10 years of teaching at MIT, I’ve never heard a whole classroom gasp like that.”&nbsp;</p> <p>However basic, Riskin’s deft manipulation of light produces a profound effect, one that the students experience collectively in a moment of surprise and wonder. That’s what a new anthropology class, 21A.S01 (Paranormal Machines), is all about: exploring the human experience of the disconcerting and the uncanny&nbsp;in relation to technology and discovering how people and cultures build stories and beliefs around out-of-the ordinary experiences.

</p> <p><strong>Working across disciplines</strong>

</p> <p>In everyday parlance, the word paranormal usually refers to the phantasmal world of ghost hunters and clairvoyants. But Riskin and Jones use the word differently, and more fundamentally, to encompass qualities of human experience that challenge our typical expectations and perceptions. It turns out that this is a great topic of mutual inquiry for the arts, with their capacity to create new and transformative experiences, and anthropology, a science that studies the diversity of experience. “When we explore the overlap of art and anthropology," says Riskin, “we find deep and complex connections.”</p> <p>A cross-disciplinary class development grant from MIT’s Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST) allowed Riskin and Jones to make this timely exploration. The qualities of experience that students in 21A.S01 are studying have a new relevance in our era, as artificial intelligence becomes ever more a part of our daily lives and we begin to encounter machines that seem to think, see, and understand — that can seem to have a life of their own. People perceive and experience such technology in a wide range of ways, including with wonder, anxiety, excitement, delight, fear, uncertainty, and affection.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Experiential learning</strong>

</p> <p>Students in the course are making anthropological and artistic explorations of such perceptions, using a humanistic lens to better understand our evolving relationship to technology. The experiences generated in the class give students a chance to consider the ways human beings make meaning around multilayered and enigmatic experiences, including interactions with advanced technologies.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“The students are learning about the course content experientially,” says Riskin. “It’s a new method for many of the students that draws on art practice and perception.” 21A.S01 asks students to use a mix of creative interpretation, theoretical understanding, and personal reflection as well as technical knowledge and information.</p> <p>“This approach allows us to learn along with our students,” Jones adds. “I’m constantly discovering things that enrich my anthropological understanding, and that I want to fold back into future iterations of the class. This is precisely why CAST’s support is so transformative.”</p> <p>Students in the course are first introduced to anthropological readings and artistic creations — from kinetic art to ritual objects — then strive to develop an understanding of how the human mind can perceive these works as alive, aware, or responsive. CAST’s support also ensures that students have the resources to develop their own demos and engineer experiences that can produce wonder, uncertainty, or fascination.

</p> <p><strong>A laboratory for the visual arts</strong>

</p> <p>The course runs in the MIT Museum Studio and Compton Gallery, a bustling, glass-walled workshop and experimental exhibition gallery in Building 10 operated by the MIT Museum.</p> <p>Home to a creative community of practice exploring commonalities between scientific and artistic methods, the space dazzles with the lights and sounds of large-scale technological art pieces made by past students. Divided into alternating studio sessions and seminars, led respectively by Riskin and Jones, the course was developed by the two instructors collaboratively. “What’s interesting to us is looking at the kind of uncanny experiences or perceptions that can give rise to complex beliefs,” says Jones.&nbsp;
</p> <p>“When you write about those things in an anthropological text you’re containing the power of the experience with language, analysis, and critical commentary,” he adds. “A part of what we wanted to explore with technological works of art is the possibility of engendering those kinds of experiences and perceptions and dwelling on them, focusing on experiencing their power.”&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“We talk about the minimal amount of signal it takes for something to be perceived as human-like,” says class member Erica Yuen, a second-year graduate student in the MEng program. “Turns out that it doesn’t take that much. The course has challenged my perception of reality because it has shown that we project our past experiences onto ambiguous signals to create a story.”</p> <p><strong>Engineering emotive machines?</strong></p> <p>In one studio session focused on abstraction and ambiguity, students are presented with a thin sheet of translucent paper and an array of small lights. Using webcams and other sensors, the students can create real-time variations in the lights misted by paper. At the end of the studio session, one group has created a simple, soft glowing orb that used ultrasonic signals to detect movement. If someone moves too quickly or got too close, the orb vanishes, only to slowly reappear elsewhere on the array. Presenting the creation to the class, a fidget too close to the sensors means that the entire apparatus went dark.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Careful,” says one student, “you’re scaring it!”</p> <p>Why do we assign emotion and narrative to nonhuman, nonnarrative visuals? That’s one of the foundational questions of the course, and to begin to answer it, students explore the moments of ambiguity where those perceptions begin.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Artists are interested in playing with states of indeterminacy or states of ambiguity,” says Jones. “Often the best art is powerful precisely because it can’t be resolved into any one simple interpretation, and the value of the artwork really hinges on the possibility that multiple interpretations might simultaneously be true, and not mutually exclusive. We’re trying to carve out a complementary space between anthropological ideas and artistic expression — in terms of these experiential moments of interpretive uncertainty.”</p> <p>In one studio session focused on ambiguous mechanical motion, Liv Koslow, a senior majoring in mathematics, shows off her team’s demo: reacting to speed and proximity, the different materials of their mechanism move — some predictably, some unpredictably. While the machine doesn’t have a function the way that, say, a Roomba or a surveillance drone might, Koslow explains that the principle of its interaction with humans is the same: The machine is designed to immediately indicate an ability to sense and react — except in this case, it’s also conveying the appearance of emotive behavior.</p> <p>The students don’t only work with ambiguity around machines’ perceived behavior. Using a metallic material that, through simple pressure changes, can be made to appear fluid, Ether Bezugla, a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering and computer science, demonstrates how design elements can elevate or manipulate human perception. Bezugla, who was drawn to the class by their interest in exploring ambiguity of the senses, uses this surprising design exercise to “explore the threshold at which a person perceives abnormality” and begins trying to make meaning to explain it.</p> <p><strong>The applications of ambiguity</strong></p> <p>Jones’s anthropological research has long focused on entertainment magic — what we think of as stage magic, tricks, and illusions. 21A.S01 is a departure for him; the class is about wonder, not illusion. Ironically, he says, “some of the fiercest critics of wondrous, enigmatic experiences can be magicians because they understand how easily people can be misled in their beliefs.”</p> <p>The concepts developed in this course bring key questions and insights about human perception into contact with the cutting edge of human-interfacing technology: How can technologies deepen human experience and enrich the inner landscape? How do we push technology to feel more “alive” or more human? What — as we chat with Alexa or name our Roombas — makes us treat our technology as if it really has a life of its own?</p> <p>Yuen says the illuminating experiences of the class will inform her work in a computational approach to cognitive sciences. Working with the most minute aspects of perception and reaction, she also plans to apply the experiences of Paranormal Machines to her artwork on ambiguity and facial structures.&nbsp;</p> <p>Riskin sees the class as a contribution to what MIT President L. Rafael Reif has termed the “bilingual” educational mission at MIT: for students to develop expertise in both technical and humanistic fields and ways of exploring and knowing. “Connecting across disciplinary languages, in this case, art and anthropology, brings precision and method to what we mean by bilingual intelligence and how it adds up in a learning experience,” Riskin says.</p> <p><em>Story prepared by SHASS Communications</em>
</p> <p><em>Editorial Team: Alison Lanier and Emily Hiestand </em>
</p> Prathima Muniyappa (with camera) and other class members examining a student demo. In studying various ambiguous images and works, students discover how emotional content and prior experiences contribute to what we think we see. Image: Graham JonesClasses and programs, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Anthropology, Arts, Students, MIT Museum, Technology and society, MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) Bryan Reimer receives human factors innovator award MIT AgeLab research engineer directs a team that studies in-vehicle automation, robotics, AI, and the mechanics of driver attention, among other topics. Wed, 30 Oct 2019 16:00:01 -0400 Arthur Grau | Center for Transportation and Logistics <p>MIT Research Engineer Bryan Reimer recently received the Jack A. Kraft Innovator Award from the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society (HFES). Reimer directs a multidisciplinary team at MIT AgeLab that explores human-centered topics across a range of emerging technologies. His team studies in-vehicle automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the mechanics of driver attention, among other topics. The team’s research develops theoretical and applied insight into driver behavior and aims to find solutions to the next generation of human-factors challenges associated with the automation of transportation. Reimer received this accolade partially because of the broad applicability of his research within the field of ergonomics and technology.</p> <p>The Jack A. Kraft Innovator Award was established in 1970 by the HFES to recognize significant efforts to extend or diversify the application of human-factors principles and methods to new areas of endeavor. Reimer&nbsp; accepted the award at the HFES annual meeting on Oct. 29 in Seattle, Washington.</p> <p>“It’s quite an honor to receive a professional award of this magnitude and be recognized alongside human-factors leaders that I’ve revered, and who have shaped the profession,“ says Reimer. “I am grateful for the support of my colleagues, who for over two decades have collaborated with me on this work. This collaboration, in combination with the appetite for innovation at MIT, I believe has positioned me to receive this award.”</p> <p>Serving as the basis for the honor is Reimer’s innovative work founding and managing three industry partnerships. The Advanced Human Factors Evaluator for Attentional Demand consortium aims to develop the next generation of driver-attention measurement tools. The Advanced Vehicle Technology consortium seeks to understand how drivers use emerging, commercially available vehicle technologies, including advanced driver assistance systems and automated driving systems. Finally, the Clear Information Presentation consortium explores the impact of typography and other design features on usability in glance-based environments such as while driving or while using smartphones.</p> <p>Kermit Davis, president of the HFES, says “The Kraft Award is one of our society’s top awards and honors an individual who has made major innovation in human factors and ergonomics (HF/E). Dr. Reimer’s work in automated and operator-assisted driving stood out because of its broad scope, extensive collaboration across diverse disciplines, and highly influential impact. His focus on this new area for HF/E not only expands the reach of our profession, but also addresses an important individual and societal issue regarding the interaction between humans and technology.”&nbsp;</p> <p>The AgeLab at MIT Center for Transportation and Logistics is a multidisciplinary research program that works with business, government, and non-governmental organizations to improve the quality of life of older people and those who care for them. The HFES is the world’s largest scientific association for human factors and ergonomics professionals, with over 4,500 members in 58 countries. Reimer’s work draws together traditional psychological methods with big-data analytics, deep learning, and predictive modeling. The receipt of this award illustrates how research across disciplines may yield significant results, both for the research community and society at large.</p> <div></div> Bryan Reimer, an AgeLab research scientist and the associate director of the New England University Transportation Center, was honored for his work developing a better understanding of how people engage with vehicle automation.Photo: MIT AgeLabCenter for Transportation and Logistics, AgeLab, Autonomous vehicles, Machine learning, Design, Awards, honors and fellowships, Staff, Aging Enhanced nuclear energy online class aims to inform and inspire Revamped version of MITx MOOC includes new modules on nuclear security, nuclear proliferation, and quantum engineering. Thu, 24 Oct 2019 14:30:01 -0400 Leda Zimmerman | Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering <p>More than 3,000 users hailing from 137 countries signed up for the MIT Department of Nuclear Energy's debut massive open online course (MOOC), Nuclear Energy: Science, Systems and Society, which debuted last year on <em>MITx. </em>Now, after roaring success, the course will be <a href="" target="_blank">offered again</a> in spring 2020, with key upgrades.</p> <p>“We had hoped there was an appetite in the general public for information about nuclear energy and technology,” says Jacopo Buongiorno, the TEPCO Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering and one of the course instructors. “We were fully confirmed by this first offering.”</p> <p>Unfolding over nine weeks, the MOOC provides a primer on nuclear energy and radiation and the wide-ranging applications of nuclear technology in medicine, security, energy, and research. It aims not just to educate, but to capture the interest of a distance-learning audience not necessarily well acquainted with physics and mathematics.</p> <p>“The MOOC builds on a tradition in our department of a first-year seminar that exposes students to a broad overview of the field,” says another instructor, Anne White, professor and head, Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. “We set ourselves the challenge of translating the experience of being MIT first-years, who jump into something they know nothing about, and come out with excitement for the foundations of the field and its frontiers.”</p> <p>Before setting out to tackle this problem, the creative team — which also includes Michael Short, the Class of ’42 Career Development Assistant Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, and John Parsons, senior lecturer in the Finance Group at MIT Sloan School of Management — carefully reviewed existing online nuclear science offerings.</p> <p>“When we looked at MOOCs out in the world, a lot of them are wonderful, but highly technical,” says White. “We had a different vision of what MIT could accomplish, and that was reaching a big audience of virtual first-years.”</p> <p>For last year’s launch, the MOOC was structured around three modules. The first, taught by Short, introduced nuclear science at the atomic level. “We focused on the basics — the nucleus and particles, and the technologies that naturally emerge out of the study of the discipline,” says Buongiorno. This included a close look at ionizing radiation and how to measure it, with an invitation for online users to build a simple Geiger counter to measure radiation in their own backyards.</p> <p>The second module, led by Buongiorno and Parsons, delved into how nuclear reactors function, what makes nuclear energy attractive, issues of safety and waste, and questions of nuclear power plant economics and policy.</p> <p>The third module, taught by White, discussed magnetic fusion energy research, with a look at pioneering work at MIT and elsewhere dealing with high-magnetic-field fusion. “We lay the foundation first for fission power, and see a lot of enthusiasm about decarbonizing the grid in the short term,” says White. “We then present fusion power and MIT’s SPARC experiment, which really captures students’ imagination with its potential as a future energy source.”</p> <p>Translating key elements of nuclear science and technology syllabi from the MIT classroom setting to prerecorded video segments, slides, and online assessments for the MOOC proved a significant effort for instructors.</p> <p>“Much of the material was drawn from classes we collectively taught, and it took nearly a year to develop this curriculum and make sure it was the right content, at the right level,” says Buongiorno. “It was a huge challenge to make this intelligible and attractive to a much broader audience than usual, people without a science background, or who might not be on the same page around energy.” It was, he adds, “more difficult than a typical class I teach.”</p> <p>The MOOC included opportunities for students to interact with each other and the instructors at key junctures, through the means of online write-in forums. Buongiorno and his colleagues had hoped to duplicate online the vibrant interactions of residential classrooms, and even offer office hours, but it proved infeasible. “Because of the geographic distribution of participants, it made no sense; half of the students would be excluded because the event would be taking place in the middle of the night.”</p> <p>The team, not content to rest on its laurels, is adding elements for the MOOC’s second run: R. Scott Kemp, the MIT Class of ’43 Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, will teach a new module on nuclear security and nuclear proliferation, and Paola Cappellaro, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, will offer a module on quantum engineering.</p> <p>In addition to this expansion, White envisions an eventual residential version of the course, where first-years could take the MOOC online and attend seminars on campus to receive MIT credit. “Our goal as a department is not just educating majors in nuclear science and engineering, but creating classes appealing to students outside the major,” she says. “It’s in the pipeline.”</p> <p>Given rising concern about climate change, and the emergence of new technologies in fission and fusion, the timing of this MOOC seems propitious to its founding team.</p> <p>“We’d like to have an impact with the course on the greater debate about the use of nuclear energy as part of the solution for climate change,” says Buongiorno. “The public in this debate needs science-based input and facts about different technologies, which is one of our major objectives.” Adds White, “We believe the course will appeal to folks working in government, policy, industry, as well as to those who are simply curious about what’s happening at the frontiers of our field.”</p> “We’d like to have an impact with the course on the greater debate about the use of nuclear energy as part of the solution for climate change,” says Professor Jacopo Buongiorno.Nuclear science and engineering, School of Engineering, Sloan School of Management, Classes and programs, Education, teaching, academics, Design, Energy, Environment, Nuclear power and reactors, EdX, Physics, Fusion, Massive open online courses (MOOCs), Climate change, MITx Scaling up a cleaner-burning alternative for cookstoves Mechanical engineering students in MIT D-Lab are working with collaborators in Uganda on a solution for the health hazards associated with wood-burning stoves. Tue, 22 Oct 2019 23:59:59 -0400 Mary Beth Gallagher | Department of Mechanical Engineering <p>For millions of people globally, cooking in their own homes can be detrimental to their health, and sometimes deadly. The World Health Organization estimates that 3.8 million people a year die as a result of the soot and smoke generated in traditional wood-burning cookstoves. Women and children in particular are at risk of pneumonia, stroke, lung cancer, or low birth weight.&nbsp;</p> <p>“All their life they’re exposed to this smoke,” says Betty Ikalany, founder and chief executive director of <a href="">Appropriate Energy Saving Technologies (AEST)</a>. “Ten thousand women die annually in Uganda because of inhaling smoke from cookstoves.”</p> <p>Ikalany is working to eliminate the health risks associated with cookstoves in Uganda. In 2012 she met Amy Smith, founding director of <a href="">MIT D-Lab</a>, who introduced her to D-Lab’s method of manufacturing briquettes that produce no soot and very little smoke. Ikalany saw an opportunity to use this technology in Uganda, and founded AEST that same year. She started assembling a team to produce and distribute the briquettes.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>Made of charcoal dust, carbonized agricultural waste such as peanut shells and corn husks, and a cassava-water porridge, which acts as a binding agent, the briquettes are wet initially. To be usable in a cookstove, they must be completely dried. Ikalany’s team dries the briquettes on open-air racks.</p> <p>In ideal sunny conditions, it takes three days for the briquettes to dry. Inclement weather or humidity can substantially slow down the evaporation needed to dry the briquettes. When it rains, the briquettes are covered with tarps, completely halting the drying process.</p> <p>“The drying of the briquettes is the bottleneck of the whole process,” says Danielle Gleason, a senior studying mechanical engineering. “In order to scale up production and keep growing as a business, Betty and her team realized that they needed to improve the drying process.”</p> <p>Gleason was one of several students who were connected to Ikalany through MIT D-Lab courses. While taking the cross-listed MIT D-Lab class 2.651/EC.711 (Introduction to Energy in Global Development) as a sophomore, she worked on a project that sought to optimize the drying process in charcoal briquettes. That summer, she traveled to Uganda to meet with Ikalany’s team along with Daniel Sweeney, a research scientist at MIT D-Lab.</p> <p>“Drawing upon their strong theoretical foundation and experiences in the lab and the classroom, we want our students to go out into the field and make real things that have a lasting impact,” explains Maria Yang, professor of mechanical engineering and faculty academic director at MIT D-Lab.</p> <p>During her first trip to Uganda, Gleason focused on information gathering and identifying where there were pain points in the production process of the briquettes.</p> <p>“I went to Uganda not to present an incredibly complex solution, but simply to learn from our community partners, to share some ideas our team has been working on, and to work directly with those who will be impacted by our designs,” adds Gleason.</p> <p>Armed with a better understanding of AEST’s production process, Gleason continued to develop ideas for improving the drying process when she returned to MIT last fall. In MIT D-Lab 2.652/EC.712 (Applications of Energy in Global Development), she worked with a team of students on various designs for a new drying system.</p> <p>“We spent a whole semester figuring out how to improve this airflow and naturally convect the air,” Gleason explains. With sponges acting as stand-ins for the charcoal briquettes, Gleason and her team used heat lamps to replicate the heat and humidity in Uganda. They developed three different designs for tent-like structures that could facilitate drying at all times — even when raining. At the end of the semester, it was time to put these designs to the test.</p> <p>“You can prototype and test all you want, but until you visit the field and experience the real-world conditions and work with the people who will be using your designs, you never fully understand the problem,” adds Gleason.</p> <p>Last January, during MIT’s Independent Activity Period, Gleason returned to Uganda to test designs. She and her team found out that their original idea of having a slanted dryer didn’t work in real-world conditions. Outside of the controlled conditions in the lab, their dryers didn’t have enough air flow to speed up the drying process.</p> <p>They spent several weeks troubleshooting dryer designs with Ikalany and her team. The team ended up designing covered dryers that allowed the briquettes to dry in both sun and rain, increasing the overall throughput.</p> <p>“We believe that once we are able to scale up what we have learned from Danielle and her team we should be able to produce five times more a day,” says Ikalany. “Our production capacity will increase and the demand for customers will be met.”</p> <p>In addition to helping Ikalany scale up the production of the potentially life-saving briquettes, Gleason and her fellow students left Uganda with a broadened world view.</p> <p>“For most students, this is the first time they will visit these countries,” adds Yang. “Not only do we want to benefit our collaborators, we want our students to gain formative and enriching experiences.”</p> <p>Gleason left Uganda with a deeper appreciation of community. “Seeing how close the community Betty and her team are a part of really made me value the idea of community more,” she recalls.</p> <p>While other students will pick up where Gleason and her team left off in their work with Ikalany in the coming months, Gleason hopes to continue working on solutions in the developing world as she explores future career paths. “I really love looking at how people interact with the things they use, and I think there’s so much room for growth in user-interfacing in the developing world,” she says.</p> Senior Danielle Gleason (right) speaks with Goretti Ariago (center) and Salume Awiyo (left), employees of Appropriate Energy Saving Technologies, in Soroti, Uganda. Gleason has made two trips to Uganda to help streamline the production of charcoal briquettes which offer a low-smoke alternative for home cooking fuel.Photo: John Freidah Mechanical engineering, School of Engineering, D-Lab, Africa, Developing countries, Design, Manufacturing, Education, teaching and academics, Food, Health, Students, Women Professor Emeritus Woodie Flowers, innovator in design and engineering education, dies at 75 Beloved teacher and pioneer in hands-on engineering education developed design and robotics competitions at MIT, FIRST, and beyond, while promoting his concept of “gracious professionalism.” Mon, 14 Oct 2019 18:00:08 -0400 Mary Beth Gallagher | Department of Mechanical Engineering <p>Woodie Flowers SM ’68, MEng ’71, PhD ’73, the Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical Engineering, passed away on Oct. 11 at the age of 75. Flowers’ passion for design and his infectious kindness have impacted countless engineering students across the world.</p> <p>Flowers was instrumental in shaping MIT’s hands-on approach to engineering design education, first developing teaching methods and learning opportunities that culminated in a design competition for class 2.70, now called <a href="">2.007 (Design and Manufacturing I)</a>. This annual MIT event, which has now been held for nearly five decades, has impacted generations of students and has been emulated at universities around the world. Flowers expanded this concept to high school and elementary school students, working to help found the world-wide <a href="">FIRST Robotics Competition</a>, which has introduced millions of children to science and engineering.</p> <p>Born in 1943, Flowers was reared in Jena, Louisiana. He became interested in mechanical engineering and design at a young age thanks in large part to his mother and his father, who was a welder with a penchant for tinkering and building. Growing up, Flowers also expressed a love of nature and traveling. When he wasn’t working on cars or building rockets as a teenager, he was camping with his family in Louisiana or collecting butterflies. This interest in nature led to an award-winning science fair project on the impact the environment has on <em>Lepidoptera</em>. Flowers’ passion for both building and nature also helped him earn the rank of Eagle Scout.</p> <p>Flowers received his bachelor’s degree in engineering from Louisiana Tech University in 1966. After graduating, he spent a summer as an engineering trainee for the Humble Oil Company before enrolling in MIT for graduate school. He received his master’s of science in mechanical engineering in 1968 and an engineer’s degree in 1971. Two years later he earned his doctoral degree under the supervision of the late Professor Robert Mann. For his thesis, Flowers designed a “man-interactive simulator system” for the development of prosthetics for above-knee amputees. He would continue to design above-knee prosthetics throughout his career.</p> <p>As Flower’s academic career progressed, his wife Margaret acted as a partner in everything he did. Early in their marriage, when Flowers was just starting out at MIT, she worked to support their family financially. Later in life, she left her own career to partner with Flowers on his work in FIRST.</p> <p>After earning his PhD, Flowers joined MIT’s faculty as assistant professor of mechanical engineering. Within his first year he was teaching what was then known as 2.70, now called 2.007. Under Flowers’ leadership, the class evolved into a hands-on experience for undergraduate students, culminating in a final robot competition.</p> <p>“From the beginning 2.007/2.70 was about building a device to accomplish a task,” Flowers explained in a <a href="">2015 video</a>. Students were given an assortment of materials to design and build their devices. In the 1970s these materials included tongue depressors and rubber bands, but over the years the competition has gone on to include 3D-printed parts and computer chips.</p> <p>Despite the increased sophistication, according to Flowers the core of the course remained unchanged. “Some of the stuff that stayed the same is the wonderful way you compete like crazy but help each other out,” he said. Flowers would coin the phrase “gracious professionalism” to describe this idea of being kind and respecting and valuing others, even in the heat of competition.</p> <p>PBS highlighted Flowers’ innovative educational approach to class 2.007 in a 1981 documentary “Discover: The World of Science.” The network continued to cover the 2.007 robotics competition throughout the 1980s, and nearly a decade later, Flowers hosted the popular PBS series “Scientific American Frontiers,” from 1990-1993. One of the program’s objectives was to get people interested in science and engineering. He was awarded a regional Emmy Award for his work on the series.</p> <p>At the same time, Flowers helped develop a new program to inspire young people that built upon the competition he developed for 2.007. He collaborated with Dean Kamen, founder of FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), to develop a robotics competition for high school students. In 1992, the inaugural FIRST Robotics Competition was held, giving high school students from around the world an opportunity to design and build their own robots.</p> <p>Over the past three decades,&nbsp;FIRST robotics has grown into a global movement serving 660,000 students from over 100 countries each year. It provides scholarship&nbsp;opportunities totaling over $80 million available to&nbsp;FIRST&nbsp;high school students.&nbsp;Flowers’ mantra of “gracious professionalism” remains at FIRST’s core. In 1996, William P. Murphy, Jr. founded the annual <a href="">Woodie Flowers Award</a> within FIRST to celebrate communication in engineering and design. The award “recognizes an individual who has done an outstanding job of motivation through communication while also challenging the students to be clear and succinct in recognizing the value of communication.”</p> <p>While working on FIRST, Flowers continued to have impact on mechanical engineering education, its future directions, and engineers’ professional role in society, in addition to envisioning how the use of digital resources could enhance residential learning.</p> <p>At MIT, he served as head for the systems and design division in the Department of Mechanical Engineering in the early 1990s and was named Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering in 1994.&nbsp; While Flowers retired in 2007, he remained an active member of the MIT community as professor emeritus up until his death.</p> <p>Flowers mentored countless engineering students during his 35 years on the MIT faculty. He served as undergraduate and master’s thesis advisor for Megan Smith ’86, SM ’88, former chief technology officer of the United States, as well as doctoral advisor to David Wallace SM ’91, PhD ’95, Ely Sachs ’76, SM ’76, PhD ’83, and Alexander Slocum ’82, SM ’83, PhD ’85, all of whom are professors of mechanical engineering at MIT.</p> <p>Flowers has had a lasting impact on the generations of mechanical engineering students he taught. From encouraging students to embrace ambiguity to pulling out a massive dictionary in the middle of class to help students find a precise word to articulate their point, his role in shaping students’ lives went far beyond the tenants of design and engineering. Many of his students who have gone on to be educators themselves have implemented his educational ethos in their own classrooms and labs.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Throughout his career, Flowers received numerous awards and accolades for his vast contributions to engineering education. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers honored him with both the Ruth and Joel Spira Outstanding Design Educator Award and the Edwin F. Church Medal. Flowers received the J.P. Den Hartog Distinguished Educator Award, was a MacVicar Fellow, and was elected to the National Academy of Engineering. He also served as a distinguished partner and a member of the President's Council at Olin College of Engineering.</p> <p>Flowers is survived by his beloved wife Margaret Flowers of Weston, Massachusetts, his sister, Kay Wells of St. Augustine, Florida, his niece Catherine Calabria, also of St. Augustine, his nephew, David Morrison of Arlington, Virginia, as well as generations of grateful and adoring students.</p> <p>Memorial donations to FIRST and memories of Flowers may be delivered via <a href="" target="_blank">this website</a> or mailed to FIRST c/o Director Dia Stolnitz, 200 Bedford Street, Manchester, New Hampshire, 03101.</p> <p>MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering will be organizing a digital memorial in Woodie’s honor where alumni, former colleagues, and students are welcome to share their remembrances. Remembrances may be submitted via the <a href="" target="_blank">MechE website</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>This article will be updated with information about memorial services as it becomes available.</p> Woodie Flowers, Pappalardo Professor Emeritus of Mechanical EngineeringPhoto: Tony PulsoneObituaries, Mechanical engineering, School of Engineering, Design, teaching, academics, Robots, Robotics, STEM education, Alumni/ae, Faculty Engineers put Leonardo da Vinci’s bridge design to the test Proposed bridge would have been the world’s longest at the time; new analysis shows it would have worked. Wed, 09 Oct 2019 23:59:59 -0400 David L. Chandler | MIT News Office <p>In 1502 A.D., Sultan Bayezid II sent out the Renaissance equivalent of a government RFP (request for proposals), seeking a design for a bridge to connect Istanbul with its neighbor city Galata. Leonardo da Vinci, already a well-known artist and inventor, came up with a novel bridge design that he described in a letter to the Sultan and sketched in a small drawing in his notebook.</p> <p>He didn’t get the job. But 500 years after his death, the design for what would have been the world’s longest bridge span of its time intrigued researchers at MIT, who wondered how thought-through Leonardo’s concept was and whether it really would have worked.</p> <p>Spoiler alert: Leonardo knew what he was doing.</p> <p>To study the question, recent graduate student Karly Bast MEng ’19, working with professor of architecture and of civil and environmental engineering John Ochsendorf and undergraduate Michelle Xie, tackled the problem by analyzing the available documents, the possible materials and construction methods that were available at the time, and the geological conditions at the proposed site, which was a river estuary called the Golden Horn. Ultimately, the team built a detailed scale model to test the structure’s ability to stand and support weight, and even to withstand settlement of its foundations.</p> <p>The results of the study were presented in Barcelona this week at the conference of the International Association for Shell and Spatial Structures. They will also be featured in a talk at Draper in Cambridge, Massachusetts, later this month and in an episode of the PBS program NOVA, set to air on Nov. 13.</p> <p><strong>A flattened arch</strong></p> <p>In Leonardo’s time, most masonry bridge supports were made in the form of conventional semicircular arches, which would have required 10 or more piers along the span to support such a long bridge. Leonardo’s bridge concept was dramatically different — a flattened arch that would be tall enough to allow a sailboat to pass underneath with its mast in place, as illustrated in his sketch, but that would cross the wide span with a single enormous arch.</p> <p>The bridge would have been about 280 meters long (though Leonardo himself was using a different measurement system, since the metric system was still a few centuries off), making it the longest span in the world at that time, had it been built. “It’s incredibly ambitious,” Bast says. “It was about 10 times longer than typical bridges of that time.”</p> <p>The design also featured an unusual way of stabilizing the span against lateral motions — something that has resulted in the collapse of many bridges over the centuries. To combat that, Leonardo proposed abutments that splayed outward on either side, like a standing subway rider widening her stance to balance in a swaying car.</p> <p>In his notebooks and letter to the Sultan, Leonardo provided no details about the materials that would be used or the method of construction. Bast and the team analyzed the materials available at the time and concluded that the bridge could only have been made of stone, because wood or brick could not have carried the loads of such a long span. And they concluded that, as in classical masonry bridges such as those built by the Romans, the bridge would stand on its own under the force of gravity, without any fasteners or mortar to hold the stone together.</p> <p>To prove that, they had to build a model and demonstrate its stability. That required figuring out how to slice up the complex shape into individual blocks that could be assembled into the final structure. While the full-scale bridge would have been made up of thousands of stone blocks, they decided on a design with 126 blocks for their model, which was built at a scale of 1 to 500 (making it about 32 inches long). Then the individual blocks were made on a 3D printer, taking about six hours per block to produce.</p> <p>“It was time-consuming, but 3D printing allowed us to accurately recreate this very complex geometry,” Bast says.</p> <p><strong>Testing the design’s feasibility</strong></p> <p>This is not the first attempt to reproduce Leonardo’s basic bridge design in physical form. Others, including a pedestrian bridge in Norway, have been inspired by his design, but in that case modern materials — steel and concrete — were used, so that construction provided no information about the practicality of Leonardo’s engineering.</p> <p>“That was not a test to see if his design would work with the technology from his time,” Bast says. But because of the nature of gravity-supported masonry, the faithful scale model, albeit made of a different material, would provide such a test.</p> <p>“It’s all held together by compression only,” she says. “We wanted to really show that the forces are all being transferred within the structure,” which is key to ensuring that the bridge would stand solidly and not topple.</p> <p>As with actual masonry arch bridge construction, the “stones” were supported by a scaffolding structure as they were assembled, and only after they were all in place could the scaffolding be removed to allow the structure to support itself. Then it came time to insert the final piece in the structure, the keystone at the very top of the arch.</p> <p>“When we put it in, we had to squeeze it in. That was the critical moment when we first put the bridge together. I had a lot of doubts” as to whether it would all work, Bast recalls. But “when I put the keystone in, I thought, ‘this is going to work.’ And after that, we took the scaffolding out, and it stood up.”</p> <p>“It’s the power of geometry” that makes it work, she says. “This is a strong concept. It was well thought out.” Score another victory for Leonardo.</p> <p>“Was this sketch just freehanded, something he did in 50 seconds, or is it something he really sat down and thought deeply about? It’s difficult to know” from the available historical material, she says. But proving the effectiveness of the design suggests that Leonardo really did work it out carefully and thoughtfully, she says. “He knew how the physical world works.”</p> <p>He also apparently understood that the region was prone to earthquakes, and incorporated features such as the spread footings that would provide extra stability. To test the structure’s resilience, Bast and Xie built the bridge on two movable platforms and then moved one away from the other to simulate the foundation movements that might result from weak soil. The bridge showed resilience to the horizontal movement, only deforming slightly until being stretched to the point of complete collapse.</p> <p>The design may not have practical implications for modern bridge designers, Bast says, since today’s materials and methods provide many more options for lighter, stronger designs. But the proof of the feasibility of this design sheds more light on what ambitious construction projects might have been possible using only the materials and methods of the early Renaissance. And it once again underscores the brilliance of one of the world’s most prolific inventors.</p> <p>It also demonstrates, Bast says, that “you don’t necessarily need fancy technology to come up with the best ideas.”</p> Recent graduate student Karly Bast shows off the scale model of a bridge designed by Leonardo da Vinci that she and her co-workers used to prove the design’s feasibility. Image: Gretchen ErtlCivil and environmental engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, School of Engineering, Architecture, History, School of Architecture and Planning, Research, 3-D printing Deploying drones to prepare for climate change PhD student Norhan Bayomi uses drones to investigate how building construction impacts communities’ resilience to rising temperatures. Fri, 04 Oct 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Daysia Tolentino | MIT News correspondent <p>While doing field research for her graduate thesis in her hometown of Cairo, Norhan Magdy Bayomi observed firsthand the impact of climate change on her local community.</p> <p>The residents of the low-income neighborhood she was studying were living in small, poorly insulated apartments that were ill-equipped for dealing with the region’s rising temperatures. Sharing cramped quarters — with families in studios less than 500 square feet — and generally lacking air conditioning or even fans, many people avoided staying in their homes altogether on the hottest days.</p> <p>It was a powerful illustration of one of the most terrible aspects of climate change: Those who are facing its most extreme impacts also tend to have the fewest resources for adapting.</p> <p>This understanding has guided Bayomi’s research as a PhD student in the Department of Architecture’s Building Technology Program. Currently in her third year of the program, she has mainly looked at countries in the developing world, studying how low-income communities there adapt to changing heat patterns and <a href="" target="_blank">documenting</a> global heatwaves and populations’ adaptive capacity to heat. A key focus of her research is how building construction and neighborhoods’ design affect residents’ vulnerability to hotter temperatures.</p> <p>She uses drones with infrared cameras to document the surface temperatures of urban buildings, including structures with a variety of designs and building materials, and outdoor conditions in the urban canyons between buildings.</p> <p>“When you look at technologies like drones, they are not really designed or commonly used to tackle problems like this. We’re trying to incorporate this kind of technology to understand what kind of adaptation strategies are suitable for addressing climate change, especially for underserved populations,” she says.</p> <p><strong>Eyes in the sky</strong></p> <p>Bayomi is currently developing a computational tool to model heat risk in urban areas that incorporates building performance, available urban resources for adaptation, and population adaptive capacity into its data.</p> <p>“Most of the tools that are available right now are mostly using statistical data about the population, the income, and the temperature. I’m trying to incorporate how the building affects indoor conditions, what resources are available to urban residents, and how they adapt to heat exposure — for instance, if they have a cooling space they could go to, or if there is a problem with the power supplies and they don’t have access to ceiling fans,” she says. “I’m trying to add these details to the equation to see how they would affect risk in the future.”</p> <p>She recently began <a href="">looking at similar changes</a> in communities in the Bronx, New York, in order to see how building construction, population adaptation, and the effects of climate change differ based on region. Bayomi says that her advisor, Professor John Fernández, motivated her to think about how she could apply different technologies into her field of research.</p> <p>Bayomi’s interest in drones and urban development isn’t limited to thermal mapping. As a participant in the School of Architecture and Planning’s DesignX entrepreneurship program, she and her team founded Airworks, a company that uses aerial data collected by the drones to provide developers with automated site plans and building models. Bayomi worked on thermal imaging for the company, and she hopes to continue this work after she finishes her studies.</p> <p>Bayomi is also working with Fernández’s Urban Metabolism Group on an aerial thermography project in collaboration with Tarek Rakha PhD ’15, an assistant professor at Georgia Tech. The project is developing a cyber-physical platform to calibrate building energy models, using drones equipped with infrared sensors that autonomously detect heat transfer anomalies and envelope material conditions. Bayomi’s group is currently working on a drone that will be able to capture these data and process them in real-time.</p> <p><strong>Second home</strong></p> <p>Bayomi says the personal connections that she has developed at MIT, both within her program and across the Institute, have profoundly shaped her graduate experience.</p> <p>“MIT is a place where I felt home and welcome. Even as an Arabic muslim woman, I always felt home,” she says. “My relationship with my advisor was one of the main unique things that kept me centered and focused, as I was blessed with an advisor who understands and respects my ideas and gives me freedom to explore new areas.”</p> <p>She also appreciates the Building Technology program’s “unique family vibe,” with its multiple academic and nonacademic events including lunch seminars and social events.</p> <p>When she’s not working on climate technologies, Bayomi enjoys playing and producing music. She has played the guitar for 20 years now and was part of a band during her undergraduate years. Music serves an important role in Bayomi’s life and is a crucial creative outlet for her. She currently produces rock-influenced trance music, a genre categorized by melodic, electronic sounds. She released her first single under the moniker Nourey last year and is working on an upcoming track. She likes incorporating guitar into her songs, an element not typically heard in trance tunes.</p> <p>“'I’m trying to do&nbsp; something using guitars with ambient influences in trance music, which is not very common,” she says.</p> <p>Bayomi has been a member of the MIT Egyptian Students Association since she arrived at MIT in 2015, and now serves as vice president. The club works to connect Egyptian students at MIT and students in Egypt, to encourage prospective students to apply and provide guidance based on the members’ own experiences.</p> <p>“We currently have an amazing mix of students in engineering, Sloan [School of Management], Media Lab, and architecture, including graduate and undergraduate members. Also, with this club we try to create a little piece of home here at MIT for those who feel homesick and disconnected due to culture challenges,” she says.</p> <p>In 2017 she participated in MIT’s Vacation Week for Massachusetts Public Schools at the MIT Museum, and in 2018 she participated in the Climate Changed ideas competition, where her team’s <a href="" target="_blank">entry</a> was selected as one of the top three finalists.</p> <p>“I am keen to participate whenever possible in these kind of activities, which enhance my academic experience here,” she says. “MIT is a rich place for such events.”</p> Norhan BayomiImage: Jake BelcherGraduate, postdoctoral, Students, Profile, Architecture, School of Architecture and Planning, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (I&E), Drones, Climate change, Africa, Middle East, Music A new act for opera Emily Richmond Pollock’s book examines creative attempts to refashion postwar opera after Germany’s “Year Zero.” Tue, 01 Oct 2019 23:59:59 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office <p>In November 1953, the Nationaltheater in Mannheim, Germany, staged a new opera, the composer Boris Blacher’s “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1,” which had debuted just months previously. As it ran, music fans were treated to both a performance and a raging controversy about the work, which one critic called “a monstrosity of musical progress,” and another termed “a stillbirth.”</p> <p>Some of this vitriol stemmed from Blacher’s experimental composition, which had jazz and pop sensibilities, few words in the libretto (but some nonsense syllables), and no traditional storyline. The controversy was heightened by the Mannheim production, which projected images of postwar ruins and other related tropes onto the backdrop.</p> <p>“The staging was very political,” says MIT music scholar Emily Richmond Pollock, author of a new book about postwar German opera. “Putting these very concrete images behind [the stage], that people had just lived through, produced a very uncomfortable feeling.”</p> <p>It wasn’t just critics who were dubious: One audience member wrote to the Mannheim morning newspaper to say that Blacher’s “cacophonous concoction is actually approaching absolute zero and is not even original in doing so.”</p> <p>In short, “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1” hardly fit its genre’s traditions. Blacher’s work was introduced soon after the supposed “Zero Hour” in German society — the years after World War Two ended in 1945. Germany had instigated the deadliest war in history, and the country was supposed to be building itself entirely anew on political, civic, and cultural fronts. But the reaction to “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1” shows the limits of that concept; Germans also craved continuity.</p> <p>“There is this mythology of the Zero Hour, that Germans had to start all over again,” says Pollock, an associate professor in MIT’s Music and Theater Arts Section.</p> <p>Pollock’s new book, “<a href=";lang=en&amp;">Opera after the Zero Hour</a>,” just published by Oxford University Press, explores these tensions in rich detail. In the work, Pollock closely scrutinizes five postwar German operas while examining the varied reactions they produced. Rather than participating in a total cultural teardown, she concludes, many Germans were attempting to construct a useable past and build a future connected to it. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>“Opera in general is a conservative art form,” Pollock says. “It has often been identified very closely with whomever is in power.” For that reason, she adds, “Opera is a really good place to examine why tradition was a problem [after 1945], and how different artists chose to approach that problem.”</p> <p><strong>The politics of cultural nationalism</strong></p> <p>Rebuilding Germany after 1945 was a monumental task, even beyond creating a new political state. A significant part of Germany lay in rubble; for that matter, most large opera houses had been bombed.</p> <p>Nonetheless, opera soon bloomed again in Germany. There were 170 new operas staged in Germany from 1945 to 1965. Operationally, as Pollock notes in the book, this inevitably meant including former Nazis in the opera business — efforts at “denazification” of society, she thinks, were of limited effectiveness. Substantively, meanwhile, the genre’s sense of tradition set audience expectations that could be difficult to alter.</p> <p>“There’s a lot of investment in opera, but it’s not [usually] going to be avant-garde,” Pollock says, noting there were “hundreds of years of opera tradition pressing down” on composers, as well as “a bourgeois restored German culture that doesn’t want to do anything too radical.” However, she notes, after 1945, “There are a lot of traditions of music-making as part of the culture of being German that feel newly problematic [to socially-aware observers].”</p> <p>Thus a substantial portion of those 170 new operas — besides “Abstrakte Oper Nr. 1” — contained distinctive blends of innovation and tradition. Consider Carl Orff’s “Oedipus der Tyrann,” a 1958 work of musical innovation with a traditional theme. Orff was one of Germany’s best-known composers (he wrote “Carmina Burana” in 1937) and had professional room to experiment. “Oedipus der Tyrann” strips away operatic musical form, with scant melody or symphonic expression, though Pollock’s close reading of the score shows some remaining links to mainstream operatic tradition. But the subject of the opera is classical: Orff uses the German poet Friedrich Holderlin’s 1804 translation of Sophocles’ “Oedipus” as his content. As Pollock notes, in 1958, this could be a problematic theme.</p> <p>“When Germans claim special ownership of Greek culture, they’re saying they’re better than other countries — it’s cultural nationalism,” Pollock observes. “So what does it mean that a German composer is taking Greek tropes and reinterpreting them for a postwar context? Only recently, [there had been] events like the Berlin Olympics, where the Third Reich was specifically mobilizing an identification between Germans and the Greeks.” &nbsp;</p> <p>In this case, Pollock says, “I think Orff was not able to think clearly about the potential political implications of what he was doing. He would have thought of music as largely apolitical. We can now look back more critically and see the continuities there.” Even if Orff’s subject matter was not intentionally political, though, it was certainly not an expression of a cultural “Zero Hour,” either.</p> <p><strong>Opera is the key</strong></p> <p>“Opera after the Zero Hour” continually illustrates how complex music creation can be. In the composer Bernd Alois Zimmerman’s 1960s opera “Die Soldaten,” Pollock notes a variety of influences, chiefly Richard Wagner’s idea of the “totalizing work of art” and the composer Alban Berg’s musical idioms — but without Wagner’s nationalistic impulses.</p> <p>Even as it details the nuances of specific operas, Pollock’s book is also part of a larger dialogue about which types of music are most worth studying. If operas had limited overlap with the most radical forms of musical composition of the time, then opera’s popularity, as well as the intriguing forms of innovation and experiment that did occur within the form, make it a vital area of study, in Pollock’s view.</p> <p>“History is always very selective,” Pollock says. “A canon of postwar music will include a very narrow slice of pieces that did really cool, new stuff, that no one had ever heard before.” But focusing on such self-consciously radical music only yields a limited understanding of the age and its cultural tastes, Pollock adds, because “there is a lot of music written for the opera house that people who loved music, and loved opera, were invested in.”</p> <p>Other music scholars say “Opera after the Zero Hour” is a significant contribution to its field. Brigid Cohen, an associate professor of music at New York University, has stated that the book makes “a powerful case for taking seriously long-neglected operatic works that speak to a vexed cultural history still relevant in the present.”</p> <p>Pollock, for her part, writes in the book that, given all the nuances and tensions and wrinkles in the evolution of the art form, “opera is the key” to understanding the relationship between postwar German composers and the country’s newly fraught cultural tradition, in a fully complicated and historical mode.</p> <p>“If you look at [cultural] conservatism as interesting, you find a lot of interesting things,” Pollock says. “And if you assume things that are less innovative are less interesting, then you’re ignoring a lot of things that people cared about.”</p> Emily Richmond Pollock and her book, “Opera After the Zero Hour.”Image: David Kinder and Emily Richmond PollockSchool of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Music, Arts, Faculty, Books and authors, History MIT Sounding 2019-20 explores far-reaching musical frontiers This season of musical performances features a range of Boston premieres and diverse collaborations. Fri, 27 Sep 2019 15:20:01 -0400 Connie Blaszczyk | Arts at MIT <p>Now in its eighth year, <a href="">2019-20 </a><a href="" target="_blank">MIT Sounding</a> presents another season of wide-ranging musical offerings that have found a vibrant home at MIT.</p> <p>“The program feeds the hunger of a diverse audience for music at MIT,” says <a href="">Evan Ziporyn</a>, faculty director of the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST) and curator of the series. “We try to give students a sense of exploration, while also developing a larger-scale dialogue with local audiences.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The eclectic journey continues with Boston premieres of music from New York, Czechia, and Nepal, as well as returning artists who have wowed local audiences and who continue to push new musical boundaries. Add a septet of turntable artists, a multimedia score by Tod Machover, and a virtual reality-enhanced, dataset-driven “space opera” by artist Matthew Ritchie, and you have an abundant season of MIT Sounding.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Glenn Branca: New York’s enfant terrible&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The year started with a bang with “<a href="">Branca Lives</a>: The Glenn Branca Ensemble/Ambient Orchestra," an all-too-rare performance of music by the proto-punk legend, who passed away in 2018.</p> <p>“Branca’s symphonies for multiple guitars — sometimes up to 100 at a time — were Brutalism in musical form,” says Ziporyn. “He embraced the energy of noise, distortion, and feedback, but in a carefully organized way, activating overtones and microtones to create amazing, almost hallucinogenic textures. He was thinking orchestrally, building out from the sound of the electric guitar rather than from classical instruments. Then he began to write for acoustic orchestra and found ways to get the same effects.”</p> <p>“Branca Lives"<em> </em>presents the composer’s eponymous guitar ensemble, led by his longtime concertmaster and collaborator, Reg Bloor. Their set will include Branca’s “The Light (for David),” a tribute to David Bowie. Ziporyn and the Ambient Orchestra will open the concert with Boston premieres of two of Branca’s rarely performed orchestral works — “Symphony No. 14 (2,000,000,000 Light Years from Home)” and<em> </em>“Freeform.”</p> <p>“It’s brilliant and surprising music that deserves to be known,” adds Ziporyn.</p> <p><strong>Lochan Rijal shares music of Nepal</strong></p> <p>Despite an ever-shrinking global culture, many musical traditions remain overlooked, including the music of Nepal. “<a href="">काँचो आवाज (</a><a href="">Raw Sounds</a>),” a program that celebrates Nepal’s unique musical heritage, seeks to address that oversight.</p> <p>“काँचो आवाज (Raw Sounds)” features Lochan Rijal, the award-winning Nepali multi-instrumentalist singer and songwriter, performing new and traditional compositions based on his own musical narrative of everyday life in Nepal. The head of Kathmandu University’s Department of Music, Rijal will play the sarangi, a traditional short-necked fiddle, and the Gandharva lute arbaja, recently discovered in Rijal’s research in Nepal.&nbsp;</p> <p>During his residency, Rijal will discuss a temple restoration project and Nepal’s musical traditions in a public lecture.</p> <p><strong>Iva Bittová with MITSO</strong></p> <p>Legendary Czech vocalist/violinist Iva Bittová is a familiar force of nature at MIT, having performed with the improvisational trio <a href="">EVIYAN</a>, and collaborated with the Festival Jazz Ensemble and Pilobolus Dance for MIT One World.</p> <p>Bittová returns this October as composer to launch the MIT Symphony Orchestra’s (MITSO) 2019-20 season in “<a href="">The Heart is a Bell</a>.” The concert pairs two pieces by 20th century Czech female composers: Bittová’s “Zvon” and Vítězslava Kapralova’s “Suita Rustica.” Composed 75 years apart, both works draw on Czech and Slovak folk culture, seen through a modern lens.</p> <p>At once personal and avant-garde, “Zvon” features Bittova’s voice, jazz combo, elements of world music and cabaret, and improvisation by members of the orchestra. “We’re widening the orchestral landscape,” says Ziporyn, who steps in as acting MITSO director this academic year.</p> <p><strong>Additional projects and performances</strong></p> <p>What happens when seven DJs gather, challenged to make music together rather than as solo acts? Audiences will find out this January, in&nbsp;“<a href="">the wave function collapses</a>.” The unique program features harbanger<em> </em>(pronounced “harbinger”), a turntable septet with visiting artists Harry Allen and DJ Rob Swift, known for their work with Public Enemy and <em>The Source</em> magazine. “The wave function collapses”<strong><em> </em></strong>is the culmination of a two-week workshop facilitated by Eran Egozy, professor of the practice in music technology at MIT and co-founder and CTO of Harmonix Music Systems. The 2020 Independent Activities Period (IAP) offering includes two courses: a history of DJ culture by hip hop activist and “Media Assassin” Harry Allen, and hands-on DJ instruction by DJ Rob Swift.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Virtuoso violinist Johnny Gandelsman performed Johann Sebastian Bach’s "Sonatas and Partitas" as part of MIT Sounding’s 2015 season. The adventurous soloist returns this spring to perform “<a href="">Bach’s Cello Suites</a>” on the violin — which can be challenging, given the two instruments’ very different voicings. But this isn’t reinvention for its own sake, says Ziporyn. It’s simply “to get the most from the music, in an enthralling way.”&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>This March brings composer Tod Machover’s "City Symphonies" to Boston for the first time. Rich in visuals and sense of place, “<a href="">Moving Images: MITSO and Film</a>” is part of the MIT Symphony Orchestra’s 2019-20 season. “It’s time to present this music on Tod’s home turf,” notes Ziporyn, who will conduct the ensemble. Audiences can expect a unique evening of music and film, including work developed by Machover and his team in the <a href="">Opera of the Future</a> group at the <a href="">MIT Media Lab</a>.</p> <p>The season closes with a new transmedia work, “The Invisible College,” created by 2018–20 Dasha Zhukova Distinguished Visiting Artist <a href="">Matthew Ritchie</a>. The project refers to the multitude of interactions and collaborations that take place behind the scenes within the university, and brings together a multidisciplinary team of MIT artists, faculty, and students. Based on datasets representing scales of the universe — from nanoparticles to dark energy —<em> </em>“The Invisible College” encompasses a site-specific installation, virtual reality experience, and a May&nbsp;“<a href="">Dark Energy: A Space Opera</a>,” a collaboration between Ritchie, Ziporyn, and Christine Southworth.</p> The first concert of MIT Sounding for 2019-20 was "The Music of Glenn Branca Live: Glenn Branca Ensemble/Ambient Orchestra." Pictured are Reg Bloor and Glenn Branca.Photo: Maria Jose GouveaCenter for Art, Science and Technology, Media Lab, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Music and theater arts, Arts, Music, Special events and guest speakers, School of Architecture and Planning Using math to blend musical notes seamlessly Algorithm enables one audio signal to glide into another, recreating the “portamento” effect of some musical instruments. Fri, 27 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office <p>In music, “portamento” is a term that’s been used for hundreds of years, referring to the effect of gliding a note at one pitch into a note of a lower or higher pitch. But only instruments that can continuously vary in pitch — such as the human voice, string instruments, and trombones — can pull off the effect.</p> <p>Now an MIT student has invented a novel algorithm that produces a portamento effect between any two audio signals in real-time. In experiments, the algorithm seamlessly merged various audio clips, such as a piano note gliding into a human voice, and one song blending into another. His paper describing the algorithm won the “best student paper” award at the recent International Conference on Digital Audio Effects.</p> <p>The algorithm relies on “optimal transport,” a geometry-based framework that determines the most efficient ways to move objects — or data points — between multiple origin and destination configurations. Formulated in the 1700s, the framework has been applied to supply chains, fluid dynamics, image alignment, 3-D modeling, computer graphics, and more.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>In work that originated in a class project, Trevor Henderson, now a graduate student in computer science, applied optimal transport to interpolating audio signals — or blending one signal into another. The algorithm first breaks the audio signals into brief segments. Then, it finds the optimal way to move the pitches in &nbsp;each segment to pitches in the other signal, to produce the smooth glide of the portamento effect. The algorithm also includes specialized techniques to maintain the fidelity of the audio signal as it transitions.</p> <p>“Optimal transport is used here to determine how to map pitches in one sound to the pitches in the other,” says Henderson, a classically trained organist who performs electronic music and has been a DJ on <a href="">WMBR 88.1</a>, MIT’s radio station. “If it’s transforming one chord into a chord with a different harmony, or with more notes, for instance, the notes will split from the first chord and find a position to seamlessly glide to in the other chord.”</p> <p>According to Henderson, this is one of the first techniques to apply optimal transport to transforming audio signals. He has already used the algorithm to build equipment that seamlessly transitions between songs on his radio show. DJs could also use the equipment to transition between tracks during live performances. Other musicians might use it to blend instruments and voice on stage or in the studio.</p> <p>Henderson’s co-author on the paper is Justin Solomon, an X-Consortium Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. Solomon —&nbsp;who also plays cello and piano —&nbsp;leads the Geometric Data Processing Group in the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and is a member of the Center for Computational Engineering.</p> <p>Henderson took Solomon’s class, 6.838 (Shape Analysis), which tasks students with applying geometric tools like optimal transport to real-world applications. Student projects usually focus on 3-D shapes from virtual reality or computer graphics. So Henderson’s project came as a surprise to Solomon. “Trevor saw an abstract connection between geometry and moving frequencies around in audio signals to create a portamento effect,” Solomon says. “He was in and out of my office all semester with DJ equipment. It wasn’t what I expected to see, but it was pretty entertaining.”</p> <p>For Henderson, it wasn’t too much of a stretch. “When I see a new idea, I ask, ‘Is this applicable to music?’” he says. “So, when we talked about optimal transport, I wondered what would happen if I connected it to audio spectra.”</p> <p>A good way to think of optimal transport, Henderson says, is finding “a lazy way to build a sand castle.” In that analogy, the framework is used to calculate the way to move each grain of sand from its position in a shapeless pile into a corresponding position in a sand castle, using as little work as possible. In computer graphics, for instance, optimal transport can be used to transform or morph shapes by finding the optimal movement from each point on one shape into the other.</p> <p>Applying this theory to audio clips involves some additional ideas from signal processing. Musical instruments produce sound through vibrations of components, depending on the instrument. Violins use strings, brass instruments use air inside hollow bodies, and humans use vocal cords. These vibrations can be captured as audio signals, where the frequency and amplitude (peak height) represent different pitches.&nbsp;</p> <p>Conventionally, the transition between two audio signals is done with a fade, where one signal is reduced in volume while the other rises. Henderson’s algorithm, on the other hand, smoothly slides frequency segments from one clip into another, with no fading of volume.</p> <p>To do so, the algorithm splits any two audio clips into windows of about 50 milliseconds. Then, it runs a Fourier transform, which turns each window into its frequency components. The frequency components within a window are lumped together into individual synthesized “notes.” Optimal transport then maps how the notes in one signal’s window will move to the notes in the other.</p> <p>Then, an “interpolation parameter” takes over. That’s basically a value that determines where each note will be on the path from its starting pitch in one signal to its ending pitch in the other. Manually changing the parameter value will sweep the pitches between the two positions, producing the portamento effect. That single parameter can also be programmed into and controlled by, say, a crossfader, a slider component on a DJ’s mixing board that smoothly fades between songs. As the crossfader slides, the interpolation parameter changes to produce the effect.</p> <p>Behind the scenes are two innovations that ensure a distortion-free signal. First, Henderson used a novel application of a signal-processing technique, called “frequency reassignment,” that lumps the frequency bins together to form single notes that can easily transition between signals. Second, he invented a way to synthesize new phases for each audio signal while stitching together the 50-millisecond windows, so neighboring windows don’t interfere with each other.</p> <p>Next, Henderson wants to experiment with feeding the output of the effect back into its input. This, he thinks, could automatically create another classic music effect, “legato,” which is a smooth transition between distinct notes. Unlike a portamento —&nbsp;which plays all notes between a start and end note —&nbsp;a legato seamlessly transitions between two distinct notes, without capturing any notes in between.</p> Trevor Henderson in the record library at WMBR, MIT’s student radio station.Image: Melanie Gonick, MITResearch, Computer science and technology, Algorithms, Music, Arts, Technology and society, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering Computing and artificial intelligence: Humanistic perspectives from MIT How the humanities, arts, and social science fields can help shape the MIT Schwarzman College of Computing — and benefit from advanced computing. Tue, 24 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400 School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences <p><em>The MIT Stephen A. Schwarzman College of Computing </em><em>(SCC) </em><em>will reorient the Institute to bring the power of computing and artificial intelligence to all fields at MIT, and to allow the future of computing and AI to be shaped by all MIT disciplines.</em></p> <p><em>To support ongoing planning for the new college, Dean Melissa Nobles invited faculty from all 14 of MIT’s humanistic disciplines in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences to respond to two questions:&nbsp;&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>1) What domain knowledge, perspectives, and methods from your field should be integrated into the new MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, and why? </em><br /> <br /> <em>2) What are some of the meaningful opportunities that advanced computing makes possible in your field?&nbsp; </em></p> <p><em>As Nobles says in her foreword to the series, “Together, the following responses to these two questions offer something of a guidebook to the myriad, productive ways that technical, humanistic, and scientific fields can join forces at MIT, and elsewhere, to further human and planetary well-being.” </em></p> <p><em>The following excerpts highlight faculty responses, with links to full commentaries. The excerpts are sequenced by fields in the following order: the humanities, arts, and social sciences. </em></p> <p><strong>Foreword by Melissa Nobles, professor of political science and the Kenan Sahin Dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences </strong></p> <p>“The advent of artificial intelligence presents our species with an historic opportunity — disguised as an existential challenge: Can we stay human in the age of AI?&nbsp; In fact, can we grow in humanity, can we shape a more humane, more just, and sustainable world? With a sense of promise and urgency, we are embarked at MIT on an accelerated effort to more fully integrate the technical and humanistic forms of discovery in our curriculum and research, and in our habits of mind and action.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Comparative Media Studies: William Uricchio, professor of comparative media studies</strong></p> <p>“Given our research and practice focus, the CMS perspective can be key for understanding the implications of computation for knowledge and representation, as well as computation’s relationship to the critical process of how knowledge works in culture — the way it is formed, shared, and validated.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Bring media and computer scholars together to explore issues that require both areas of expertise: text-generating algorithms (that force us to ask what it means to be human); the nature of computational gatekeepers (that compels us to reflect on implicit cultural priorities); and personalized filters and texts (that require us to consider the shape of our own biases).” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Global Languages: Emma J. Teng, the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Professor of Asian Civilizations</strong></p> <p>“Language and culture learning are gateways to international experiences and an important means to develop cross-cultural understanding and sensitivity. Such understanding is essential to addressing the social and ethical implications of the expanding array of technology affecting everyday life across the globe.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “We aim to create a 21st-century language center to provide a convening space for cross-cultural communication, collaboration, action research, and global classrooms. We also plan to keep the intimate size and human experience of MIT’s language classes, which only increase in value as technology saturates the world.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>History: Jeffrey Ravel, professor of history and head of MIT History </strong></p> <p>“Emerging innovations in computational methods will continue to improve our access to the past and the tools through which we interpret evidence. But the field of history will continue to be served by older methods of scholarship as well; critical thinking by human beings is fundamental to our endeavors in the humanities.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Call on the nuanced debates in which historians engage about causality to provide a useful frame of reference for considering the issues that will inevitably emerge from new computing technologies. This methodology of the history field is a powerful way to help imagine our way out of today’s existential threats.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Linguistics: Faculty of MIT Linguistics</strong></p> <p>“Perhaps the most obvious opportunities for computational and linguistics research concern the interrelation between specific hypotheses about the formal properties of language and their computational implementation in the form of systems that learn, parse, and produce human language.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Critically, transformative new tools have come from researchers at institutions where linguists work side-by-side with computational researchers who are able to translate back and forth between computational properties of linguistic grammars and of other systems.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Literature: Shankar Raman, with Mary C. Fuller, professors of literature</strong></p> <p>“In the age of AI, we could invent new tools for reading. Making the expert reading skills we teach MIT students even partially available to readers outside the academy would widen access to our materials in profound ways.”</p> <p>Recommended action: At least three priorities of current literary engagement with the digital should be integrated into the SCC’s research and curriculum: democratization of knowledge; new modes of and possibilities for knowledge production; and critical analysis of the social conditions governing what can be known and who can know it.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Philosophy: Alex Byrne, professor of philosophy and head of MIT Philosophy; and Tamar Schapiro, associate professor of philosophy</strong></p> <p>“Computing and AI pose many ethical problems related to: privacy (e.g., data systems design), discrimination (e.g., bias in machine learning), policing (e.g., surveillance), democracy (e.g., the&nbsp;Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal), remote warfare, intellectual property, political regulation, and corporate responsibility.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “The SCC presents an opportunity for MIT to be an intellectual leader in the ethics of technology. The ethics lab we propose could turn this opportunity into reality.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Science, Technology, and Society: Eden Medina and Dwaipayan Banerjee, associate professors of science, technology, and society</strong></p> <p>“A more global view of computing would demonstrate a broader range of possibilities than one centered on the American experience, while also illuminating how computer systems can reflect and respond to different needs and systems. Such experiences can prove generative for thinking about the future of computing writ large.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Adopt a global approach to the research and teaching in the SCC, an approach that views the U.S. experience as one among many.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Women's and Gender Studies: Ruth Perry, the Ann Friedlaender Professor of Literature; with Sally Haslanger, the Ford Professor of Philosophy, and Elizabeth Wood, professor of history</strong></p> <p>“The SCC presents MIT with a unique opportunity to take a leadership role in addressing some of most pressing challenges that have emerged from the role computing technologies play in our society — including how these technologies are reinforcing social inequalities.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Ensure that women’s voices are heard and that coursework and research is designed with a keen awareness of the difference that gender makes. This is the single-most powerful way that MIT can address the inequities in the computing fields.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Writing: Tom Levenson, professor of science writing </strong></p> <p>“Computation and its applications in fields that directly affect society cannot be an unexamined good. Professional science and technology writers are a crucial resource for the mission of new college of computing, and they need to be embedded within its research apparatus.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Intertwine writing and the ideas in coursework to provide conceptual depth that purely technical mastery cannot offer.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Music: Eran Egozy, professor of the practice in music technology</strong></p> <p>“Creating tomorrow’s music systems responsibly will require a truly multidisciplinary education, one that covers everything from scientific models and engineering challenges to artistic practice and societal implications. The new music technology will be accompanied by difficult questions. Who owns the output of generative music algorithms that are trained on human compositions? How do we ensure that music, an art form intrinsic to all humans, does not become controlled by only a few?”</p> <p>Recommended action: Through the SCC, our responsibility will be not only to develop the new technologies of music creation, distribution, and interaction, but also to study their cultural implications and define the parameters of a harmonious outcome for all.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Theater Arts: Sara Brown, assistant professor of theater arts and MIT Theater Arts director of design</strong></p> <p>“As a subject, AI problematizes what is means to be human. There are an unending series of questions posed by the presence of an intelligent machine. The theater, as a synthetic art form that values and exploits liveness, is an ideal place to explore the complex and layered problems posed by AI and advanced computing.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “There are myriad opportunities for advanced computing to be integrated into theater, both as a tool and as a subject of exploration. As a tool, advanced computing can be used to develop performance systems that respond directly to a live performer in real time, or to integrate virtual reality as a previsualization tool for designers.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Anthropology: Heather Paxson, the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Anthropology</strong></p> <p>“The methods used in anthropology —&nbsp;a field that systematically studies human cultural beliefs and practices — are uniquely suited to studying the effects of automation and digital technologies in social life. For anthropologists, ‘Can artificial intelligence be ethical?’ is an empirical, not a hypothetical, question. Ethical for what? To whom? Under what circumstances?”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Incorporate anthropological thinking into the new college to prepare students to live and work effectively and responsibly in a world of technological, demographic, and cultural exchanges. We envision an ethnography lab that will provide digital and computing tools tailored to anthropological research and projects.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Economics: Nancy L. Rose, the Charles P. Kindleberger Professor of Applied Economics and head of the Department of Economics; and David Autor, the Ford Professor of Economics and co-director of the MIT Task Force on the Work of the Future</strong></p> <p>“The intellectual affinity between economics and computer science traces back almost a century, to the founding of game theory in 1928. Today, the practical synergies between economics and computer science are flourishing. We outline some of the many opportunities for the two disciplines to engage more deeply through the new SCC.”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Research that engages the tools and expertise of economics on matters of fairness, expertise, and cognitive biases in machine-supported and machine-delegated decision-making; and on market design, industrial organization, and the future of work. Scholarship at the intersection of data science, econometrics, and causal inference. Cultivate depth in network science, algorithmic game theory and mechanism design, and online learning. Develop tools for rapid, cost-effective, and ongoing education and retraining for workers.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><strong>Political Science: Faculty of the Department of Political Science</strong></p> <p>“The advance of computation gives rise to a number of conceptual and normative questions that are political, rather than ethical in character. Political science and theory have a significant role in addressing such questions as: How do major players in the technology sector seek to legitimate their authority to make decisions that affect us all? And where should that authority actually reside in a democratic polity?”</p> <p>Recommended action: “Incorporate the research and perspectives of political science in SCC research and education to help ensure that computational research is socially aware, especially with issues involving governing institutions, the relations between nations, and human rights.” <a href="" target="_blank">Read more &gt;&gt;</a></p> <p><span style="font-size:11px;"><em>Series prepared by SHASS Communications<br /> Series Editor and Designer: Emily Hiestand<br /> Series Co-Editor: Kathryn O’Neill</em></span></p> Image: Christine Daniloff, MITEducation, teaching, academics, Humanities, Arts, Social sciences, Computer science and technology, Artificial intelligence, Technology and society, MIT Schwarzman College of Computing, Anthropology, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Comparative Media Studies/Writing, Economics, Global Studies and Languages, History, Linguistics, Literature, Music, Philosophy, Political science, Program in STS, Theater, Music and theater arts, Women's and Gender Studies A new lens into the past Summer program in civil and environmental engineering examines the intersection of modern engineering and cultural heritage. Thu, 19 Sep 2019 14:30:01 -0400 Taylor De Leon | Fatima Husain | Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering <p>Remnants of ancient Roman structures withstand centuries of wear and warfare across Europe, recording the history and culture of the people who lived around them. But hidden within mortar, and hinted by delicate cracks and chips, the structures record something else that could improve how similar materials are built today: ancient engineering.</p> <p>For the fourth summer in a row, 16 rising sophomores visited civilization-spanning structures and monuments in Italy through the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s ONE-MA3 program, which integrates the study of art, architecture, and archaeology. During the three-week field course, which is supported by the&nbsp;<a href="">AREA3 Association</a>&nbsp;(Associazione per la Ricerca e l'Educazione nell'Arte, Archeologia e Architettura), students conducted research on ancient artifacts and structural materials to inspire new research projects grounded in time, which they explore further in the fall semester in 1.057 (Heritage Science and Technology).&nbsp;</p> <p>Admir Masic, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering who leads the program, says, “Bringing students into the field is the easiest way to stimulate their curiosity.” Along with CEE, Masic is also an archaeological materials faculty fellow for the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE) at the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology (CMRAE). In his research, Masic and his team apply principles of chemistry and materials science to characterize and organize human-made materials used both in the past and at present.&nbsp;</p> <p>ONE-MA3 “offers students a hands-on experience to learn about how materials are the backbone of infrastructure, and how the field has evolved over thousands of years,” says McAfee Professor of Engineering and CEE department head Markus Buehler. Buehler considers the summer program a quintessential MIT experience — by studying ancient construction materials in the field, students are able to connect theoretical concepts to practical settings, and can begin to tackle modern issues in construction.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Constructing sustainable structures</strong></p> <p>One material, Roman concrete, served as the foundation for the course. Unlike the quick-to-disintegrate, weather-sensitive and pothole-prone concrete used to construct roads and highways today, Roman concrete hardens and repairs itself in the presence of water.&nbsp;</p> <p>Conventional modern concrete is usually composed of three materials: water, rock, and cement. However, that formula is deceptively simple: The specific compositions of those materials can make or break the resulting structure. In the case of Roman concrete, those specific compositions are not well understood, only archived in the structures themselves.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Understanding the reasons behind the resilience of Roman concrete could pave new paths,” says Janille Maragh, a graduate student and three-time teaching assistant for the program who worked alongside graduate student Linda Seymour. “It’s one thing to do research using cultural heritage data, but without context, it’s difficult to grasp the magnitude of the problem.”&nbsp;</p> <p>To kick off the summer program, students gathered at the castle in Sermoneta, a historical village located in the Italian countryside. There, they learned about the significance of lime, a key ingredient in Roman concrete, and they tried their hand at composing Roman concrete using different aggregates such as&nbsp;pozzolana<em> </em>(volcanic ash),&nbsp;cocciopesto (ground clay bricks), and pumice under the instruction of local guest lecturers. The aggregates studied were readily present in different environmental and volcanic settings in ancient Rome, and don’t require a carbon emission-heavy industrial process to create, unlike aggregates and materials used in modern concrete today.&nbsp;</p> <p>One main goal of this specific exercise, and the program in general, is to elicit creative and advanced ways to engineer new materials and technologies. Through experimentation with different materials, proportions, and compression testing of the resulting samples and structures, students learned first-hand the challenges behind creating mortars that are both durable and sustainable. They presented the reasoning behind their chosen compositions to their peers ahead of their next lessons.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Traveling time</strong></p> <p>Reflecting the Institute’s motto, "mens et manus" ("mind and hand"), Masic led students on excursions to various historical and archeological sites around Italy to give students the opportunity to interact with different materials, examine their uses first-hand, and contemplate the cultural significance of ancient structures and the materials that built them. Through lectures and field exercises, students studied the chemical makeup, historical significance, and conservation methods of preserved structures in order to set the stage for future engineers to build structures that last and positively impact society.&nbsp;</p> <p>“My hope for ONE-MA3 is that this experience will allow participants to grow as humans and as students,” Masic says. “The program allows students to view our modern world with a completely new perspective.”&nbsp;</p> <p>By using ancient Roman materials as the building blocks for modern structures in the presence of architectural and structural paragons, students were exposed to a learning opportunity not available in the classrooms of Cambridge, Massachusetts.&nbsp;</p> <p>Sophomore Anna Landler, a student who participated in the 2019 iteration of ONE-MA3, says the program helped her grasp concepts crucial to civil and environmental engineering that would take months to understand in the classroom. “Being out in the field, where we were able to see and feel these objects, helps me understand them better and know how they interact with the world around us … I wouldn’t be nearly as inspired as I would be if it was in a lecture format or a textbook.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In addition to studying ancient technologies, students learned about restoration, the practice of best preserving artifacts. In a tour of the Vatican museum, students heard from Guy Devreux, the head of the museum’s laboratory for stone conservation, as he described and showed them behind-the-scenes restoration of marble sculptures. Sophomore Sophia Mittman, a student majoring in materials science and engineering, says the experience enhanced her passion for conservation. “Everything we learned came alive right in front of us, whether it was producing 3-D models of structures and statues … It is an incredible way to learn from ancient technologies and discover how they can be adapted and applied to modern technology today,” states Mittman.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The students also visited Pompeii — the ancient city buried by four to six meters of volcanic ash due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. Excavations at Pompeii offer archeologists a glimpse into Roman life, freezing people and their environments in time. There, students were presented with a pressing issue: No one knows how to effectively preserve Pompeii and its ruins. They also explored the American Academy in Rome with the Director and MIT Professor John Ochsendorf, where they examined significant ancient texts, such as Galileo Galilei’s original works and the first edition of the Italian copy of Vitruvius.&nbsp;</p> <p>Motivated by a newfound passion for cultural heritage, students next studied photogrammetry for 3-D modeling in an effort to digitally document and preserve museum artifacts and structures. “I think there is an intriguing combination between using digital arts and media in order to explain these engineering concepts to those who may not understand it as well, or don’t have the kind of opportunity to meet with experts and professors, it is definitely important to reach youth around the world and encourage them. I felt that I have been able to explore my interests during the program, and it has allowed me to ask questions and grow a lot,” says sophomore Ben Bartschi.</p> <p><strong>Looking forward</strong></p> <p>After exploring the extravagant baroque palaces in Turin, the students made their way to the Egyptian Museum, Museo Egizio, where they had the opportunity to go behind the scenes and investigate ancient Egyptian artifacts, roughly 3,000 years old. They used non-invasive characterization tools to study and collect data on the centuries-old materials. They also learned about the fascinating Egyptian Blue pigment, invented 5,000 years ago, which continues to be used in modern science and technology today.</p> <p>“The fact that we are dedicating so much time to ourselves to engage in this process makes us realize the amount of time, care, and importance of conservation,” Landler says. Without visiting and studying ancient materials, structures, and cultural artifacts in their environments, “you don’t really understand the labor that goes into this job.”&nbsp;</p> <p>With each iteration of the program, ONE-MA3 students learn the significance of looking into the past to inspire innovation today, and the imperative cultural heritage enabled and preserved due to feats of civil, environmental, and material engineering. Many, including Masic, are excited to see the acquired knowledge applied as students begin the new academic year.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Advancement lies at the interface of various disciplines,” says Masic. “To be able to innovate, we need to observe and challenge many different perspectives. When it comes to ancient technologies, this holds true as well: It’s a great avenue for innovation, and we hope to translate that into inspiration for modern materials and structures.”</p> <p>Contributors to ONE-MA3 include: Restorer and art conservator Roberto Scalesse from the Società Erresse, IT specialist Gianfranco Quaranta from the Artech Laboratories srl, chemist and conservation scientist Marco Nicola from the Adamantio srl and the University of Turin, professor of archaeology and ancient technology Dorothy Hosler from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at MIT, Duncan Keenan-Jones from University of Queensland, Christian Greco and Enrico Ferraris from the Museo Egizio, Guy Devreux from the Musei Vaticani, Tommaso Agnoni from the Roffredo Caetani Foundation, Francesco Di Mario from the Soprintendenza Archeologia and Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le Provincie di Frosinone and Latina e Rieti, Lisa Accurti from the Soprintendenza Archeologia Belle Arti e Paesaggio Città Metropolitana di Torino, Bruno de Nigris and Massimo Osanna from the Parco Archeologico di Pompei, Mastro Gilberto Quarneti, Gianni Nerobutto from the Calchèra San Giorgio, Alessandro and Gian Luigi Nicola from the Nicola Restauri srl, Mauro Volpiano and Claudia Cassatella from the Politecnico di Torino, Riccardo Antonino from Società Robin and Politecnico di Torino, Stefano Trucco and Anna Piccirillo from the Centro per la Conservazione e Restauro “La Venaria Reale,” Dario Parigi from the Aalborg University, Michal Ganobjak from the Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, Chiara Mastreopolito, Alessandro Marello and Alessandro Bazzacco from the Adamantio srl, Piercarlo Innico from the Associazione Acropolis, Giuseppe Donnaloia from Società CACO3, Franco Vitelli from Società Sectilia, and freelancers Michele Sinisi, Claudia Rivoli, Francesca Mancinelli, and Livio Secco.&nbsp;</p> MIT engineering students display the frescoes and mosaics that they created at the Caetani Castle in Sermoneta, Italy. Photo: Max KesslerCivil and environmental engineering, School of Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, Concrete, Architecture, Anthropology, Classes and programs, History, STEM education, DMSE, Global, International initiatives Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering spreads its wings New 22-ENG undergraduate degree provides expansive vision of nuclear studies and nuclear careers. Fri, 13 Sep 2019 12:40:01 -0400 Leda Zimmerman | Nuclear science and engineering <p>After a nearly five-year effort, fueled by the passionate persistence of faculty and students, the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) began offering a new degree this fall: 22-ENG, a program that offers the same fundamentals in the discipline as Course 22, but with considerably more flexibility in course selection. Institute faculty approved the new degree in April.</p> <p>“I’m very relieved,” says junior Colt Hermesch, who is in the naval ROTC program. “I discovered I really liked quantum physics late in my academic career, and by switching to the new degree, I can take what I’m interested in and still major in nuclear.”</p> <p>This is precisely the kind of response anticipated by Michael Short ’05, SM and PhD ’10, undergraduate chair of the department, and the Class of ’42 Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering. In 2014, the department tasked Short with reforming the undergraduate curriculum. He says that 22-ENG was motivated largely by mounting student demand for a path of study in nuclear science and engineering that doesn’t lead exclusively to traditional jobs in the nuclear industry.</p> <p>“Every year I’ve been advising, increasing numbers of students have expressed interest in focusing their nuclear studies on topics like materials, robotics, policy, or sustainability,” says Short. “These are hybrid fields, fields of the future, but in spite of this growing demand, until now we have had no mechanism in the department for helping them.”</p> <p>The new flex degree will allow students, once they have completed a cluster of required courses, to focus in such areas as nuclear medicine, clean energy technologies, policy, fusion, plasma science, nuclear computation, nuclear materials, and modeling/simulation. Working with their advisors, undergraduates will be able to map out a customized suite of classes in a nuclear-relevant discipline of their creation.</p> <p>Sophomore Analyce Hernandez is wasting no time in taking advantage of this new degree option. “I was so excited to hear about it, and rushed to lay out a course map with my adviser,” she says. Hernandez was worried about double majoring in Course 22 and physics because of the formidable class requirements. “With 22-ENG, I don’t have to choose one over the other.”</p> <p>Short says he has seen too many students forced to make comparably tough choices. Some, due to personal choices, depart from their true passion in nuclear science for other majors that offer opportunities which they believe can more easily secure them jobs at Google or Facebook. Others “were leaving our major because they can’t pursue subjects they become deeply invested in, often through lab work,” says Short. “People should not be penalized for having gigantic passions that don’t fit into one of our boxes.”</p> <p>He believes with its larger menu of topics, trimmed requirements, and connection to real-world applications of NSE, 22-ENG will both retain students who might be on the fence about majoring in NSE, and capture new candidates to the field.</p> <p><strong>Seeking alternatives</strong></p> <p>Junior Daniel Korsun personifies the kind of passionate student Short hopes to persuade to commit to NSE.</p> <p>“I became interested in NSE as a freshman, and quickly realized I wanted to pursue fusion, both for my education and as a career,” Korsun says. But it became clear to him that Course 22 would not allow him break out and explore fusion at the depth he desired. “The current degree is rigorous and demanding, which is great, but it primarily prepares students for traditional nuclear careers or doctorates in fission,” he says.</p> <p>In conversations with fellow undergrads, Korsun discovered that he was not alone in yearning for alternatives: “A lot of my friends were also interested in pursuing different subfields within NSE, such as materials science and sustainability, but the coursework just didn’t support them.”</p> <p>Last spring, Korsun decided to act. Working with NSE academic administrator Brandy Baker, Korsun developed suggestions for a flexible degree parallel to those offered by mechanical engineering and physics. “We laid out a reasonable course load, retaining the core requirements, but added choices for specialization,” says Korsun. “We sent the proposal off to Professor Short, and he loved the idea.”</p> <p>The flex degree idea resonated powerfully for Short because he had been pressing to create something like it for years. “When I started here as an undergraduate in 2001, I worked in Ron Ballinger’s nuclear materials lab, and I loved it — I knew immediately it was my calling,” he says. “But when I began looking for NSE classes that could help get me further into this research, there weren’t any.”</p> <p>Short’s solution was to major in both nuclear engineering and materials science. “It was intellectually stimulating, and miserable in terms of work/life balance,” he says. Others in his cohort who wanted a deep immersion in a subdiscipline of nuclear would rather change majors and minor in nuclear engineering. So when Short joined the NSE faculty in 2013, he sought opportunities to make the curriculum more welcoming to undergraduates.</p> <p>That moment arrived the next year, when he was charged with rethinking the undergraduate curriculum. “I said great, I’ve got stuff I’ve wanted to do for a decade,” says Short.</p> <p>Some of Short’s initiatives were implemented quickly. He found ways to bring hands-on learning to early classes, ensuring multiple modes of engagement to the fundamentals of NSE. The previous theory-first, applications-later curricular framework was viewed by the students and Short as “boring.” Short also sought to trim certain classes from Course 22 that he felt were not essential to mastering the central tenets of nuclear engineering. Eliminating what he calls “dangling ends in the curriculum” — advanced courses like waves and vibrations, and analog electronics — could make room for electives that offered students the chances for immersion in nuclear domains that link more directly to careers. Short had the outlines for the new flex degree.</p> <p>With the impetus of students like Korsun, and “after much collegial debate,” according to Short, the NSE faculty added 22-ENG to its curriculum.</p> <p><strong>In sync with institutional reforms</strong></p> <p>With its debut right around the corner, the new degree promises to position NSE at the vanguard of other large-scale changes at the Institute.</p> <p>For one, 22-ENG will feature a track for computation “to use the latest advances in computing to solve problems related to nuclear,” says Short. This focus area was suggested by Anantha P. Chandrakasan, dean of the School of Engineering, who wanted to create an explicit bridge not just to computer science, but to the new Schwarzman College of Computing.</p> <p>“We’ll be first at the front door, since we’ll launch our track before the new college even starts,” says Short. “When students come for computer science, they will know they can direct their studies toward nuclear.”</p> <p>Adds Dennis Whyte, Hitachi America Professor of Engineering and former head of nuclear science and engineering, “As MIT implements new opportunities for our undergraduates, such as the new college of computing, 22-ENG will serve to grow the evolving demands of our undergraduate student population for a multi-disciplinary education.”</p> <p>The new major explicitly sets out to span fields. It will, for instance, create a focus area in policy and economics, tying NSE more closely to the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. “More than any other engineering discipline, nuclear is inseparable from the social sciences, because when you switch on a nuclear plant, everyone takes notice,” says Short. “Every step we take is ultra-scrutinized by ethicists and political scientists, as it should be.” Beyond the specialty track, Short sees “the social problems of nuclear as inseparable from the program as basic nuclear physics,” and will be working to integrate humanities and social sciences into some of the department’s core courses.</p> <p>Benchmarks for the success of NSE curriculum changes will emerge not just in the form of higher enrollment, Short anticipates, but in feedback from future employers of NSE students.</p> <p>“As we send out students with blended skillsets, capable of working in multidisciplinary ways, employers will say, ‘Wow, they’re sending us students both technically expert and well-rounded,’” says Short.</p> <p>This is the type of graduate, he notes, who could save the nuclear industry, which is sorely challenged economically. “Whether they select advanced reactors or fusion reactors, utilities, policy, or advocacy, our students could move the industry beyond the 1960s,” says Short. “They could give new meaning and substance to the department’s motto, ‘science, systems and society.’”</p> "Whether they select advanced reactors or fusion reactors, utilities, policy, or advocacy, our students could move the industry beyond the 1960s,” says MIT Professor Michael Short. “They could give new meaning and substance to the department’s motto, ‘science, systems and society.’”Photo: Gretchen ErtlNuclear science and engineering, School of Engineering, Classes and programs, Education, teaching, academics, Design, Energy, Environment, Nuclear power and reactors, Physics MIT engineers develop “blackest black” material to date Made from carbon nanotubes, the new coating is 10 times darker than other very black materials. Thu, 12 Sep 2019 23:59:59 -0400 Jennifer Chu | MIT News Office <p>With apologies to “Spinal Tap<em>,</em>” it appears that black can, indeed, get more black.</p> <p>MIT engineers report today that they have cooked up a material that is 10 times blacker than anything that has previously been reported. The material is made from vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, or CNTs — microscopic filaments of carbon, like a fuzzy forest of tiny trees, that the team grew on a surface of chlorine-etched aluminum foil. The foil captures at least 99.995 percent* of any incoming light, making it the blackest material on record.</p> <p>The researchers have published their findings today in the journal <em>ACS-Applied Materials and Interfaces. </em>They are also showcasing the cloak-like material as part of a <a href="" target="_blank">new exhibit</a> today at the New York Stock Exchange, titled <a href="" target="_blank">“The Redemption of Vanity.”</a></p> <p>The artwork, conceived by Diemut Strebe, an artist-in-residence at the MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology, in&nbsp;collaboration with Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, and his group, and MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology artist-in-residence Diemut Strebe, features a 16.78-carat natural yellow diamond from LJ West Diamonds, estimated to be worth $2 million, which the team coated with the new, ultrablack CNT material. The effect is arresting: The gem, normally brilliantly faceted, appears as a flat, black void.</p> <p>Wardle says the CNT material, aside from making an artistic statement, may also be of practical use, for instance in optical blinders that reduce unwanted glare, to help space telescopes spot orbiting exoplanets.</p> <p>“There are optical and space science applications for very black materials, and of course, artists have been interested in black, going back well before the Renaissance,” Wardle says. “Our material is 10 times blacker than anything that’s ever been reported, but I think the blackest black is a constantly moving target. Someone will find a blacker material, and eventually we’ll understand all the underlying mechanisms, and will be able to properly engineer the ultimate black.”</p> <p>Wardle’s co-author on the paper is former MIT postdoc Kehang Cui, now a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.</p> <p><strong>Into the void</strong></p> <p>Wardle and Cui didn’t intend to engineer an ultrablack material. Instead, they were experimenting with ways to grow carbon nanotubes on electrically conducting materials such as aluminum, to boost their electrical and thermal properties.</p> <p>But in attempting to grow CNTs on aluminum, Cui ran up against a barrier, literally: an ever-present layer of oxide that coats aluminum when it is exposed to air. This oxide layer acts as an insulator, blocking rather than conducting electricity and heat. As he cast about for ways to remove aluminum’s oxide layer, Cui found a solution in salt, or sodium chloride.</p> <p>At the time, Wardle’s group was using salt and other pantry products, such as baking soda and detergent, to <a href="">grow carbon nanotubes</a>. In their tests with salt, Cui noticed that chloride ions were eating away at aluminum’s surface and dissolving its oxide layer.</p> <p>“This etching process is common for many metals,” Cui says. “For instance, ships suffer from corrosion of chlorine-based ocean water. Now we’re using this process to our advantage.”</p> <p>Cui found that if he soaked aluminum foil in saltwater, he could remove the oxide layer. He then transferred the foil to an oxygen-free environment to prevent reoxidation, and finally, placed the etched aluminum in an oven, where the group carried out techniques to grow carbon nanotubes via a process called chemical vapor deposition.</p> <p>By removing the oxide layer, the researchers were able to grow carbon nanotubes on aluminum, at much lower temperatures than they otherwise would, by about 100 degrees Celsius. They also saw that the combination of CNTs on aluminum significantly enhanced the material’s thermal and electrical properties — a finding that they expected.</p> <p>What surprised them was the material’s color.</p> <p>“I remember noticing how black it was before growing carbon nanotubes on it, and then after growth, it looked even darker,” Cui recalls. “So I thought I should measure the optical reflectance of the sample.</p> <p>“Our group does not usually focus on optical properties of materials, but this work was going on at the same time as our art-science collaborations with Diemut, so art influenced science in this case,” says Wardle.</p> <p>Wardle and Cui, who have applied for a patent on the technology, are making the new CNT process freely available to any artist to use for a noncommercial art project.</p> <p><strong>“Built to take abuse”</strong></p> <p>Cui measured the amount of light reflected by the material, not just from directly overhead, but also from every other possible angle. The results showed that the material absorbed at least 99.995 percent of incoming light, from every angle. In other words, it reflected 10 times less light than all other superblack materials, including Vantablack. If the material contained bumps or ridges, or features of any kind, no matter what angle it was viewed from, these features would be invisible, obscured in a void of black. &nbsp;</p> <p>The researchers aren’t entirely sure of the mechanism contributing to the material’s opacity, but they suspect that it may have something to do with the combination of etched aluminum, which is somewhat blackened, with the carbon nanotubes. Scientists believe that forests of carbon nanotubes can trap and convert most incoming light to heat, reflecting very little of it back out as light, thereby giving CNTs a particularly black shade.</p> <p>“CNT forests of different varieties are known to be extremely black, but there is a lack of mechanistic understanding as to why this material is the blackest. That needs further study,” Wardle says.</p> <p>The material is already gaining interest in the aerospace community. Astrophysicist and Nobel laureate John Mather, who was not involved in the research, is exploring the possibility of using Wardle’s material as the basis for a star shade — a massive black shade that would shield a space telescope from stray light.</p> <p>“Optical instruments like cameras and telescopes have to get rid of unwanted glare, so you can see what you want to see,” Mather says. “Would you like to see an Earth orbiting another star? We need something very black. … And this black has to be tough to withstand a rocket launch. Old versions were fragile forests of fur, but these are more like pot scrubbers — built to take abuse."</p> <p><em>*An earlier version of this story stated that the new material captures more than 99.96 percent of incoming light. That number has been updated to be more precise; the material absorbs at least 99.995 of incoming light.</em></p> The Redemption of Vanity, is a work of art by MIT artist in residence Diemut Strebe that has been realized together with Brian L. Wardle, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Director of necstlab and Nano- Engineered Composite aerospace STructures (NECST) Consortium and his team Drs. Luiz Acauan and Estelle Cohen. Strebe’s residency at MIT is supported by the Center for Art, Science and Technology (CAST).Image: Diemut StrebeAeronautical and astronautical engineering, Arts, Carbon nanotubes, Exhibits, Research, School of Engineering, Visual arts, MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST), Technology and society Uncovering links between architecture, politics, and society “Every building is ultimately a compromise” involving many stakeholders, says architectural historian Timothy Hyde. Tue, 10 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Peter Dizikes | MIT News Office <p>A building is many things: a stylistic statement, a form shaped to its function, and a reflection of its era.</p> <p>To MIT architectural historian Timothy Hyde, a building represents something else as well.</p> <p>“Every building is ultimately a compromise,” says Hyde. “It’s a compromise between the intentions of architects, the capacities of builders, economics, politics, the people who use the building, the people who paid for the building. It’s a compromise of many, many inputs.”</p> <p>Even when architecture is stylish and trend-setting, then, buildings are developed within political, legal, and technological limits. And Hyde, formerly a practicing architect himself, has built a niche for himself at MIT as a scholar exploring those issues.&nbsp;</p> <p>In a relatively short span, Hyde, an associate professor at MIT, has written two books on the relationship between architecture and society, one exploring modernism and democracy in 20th&nbsp;century Cuba, and the other looking at the connections between architecture and power in modern Britain.</p> <p>In both, Hyde, whose sharp archival work matches his grasp of buildings, shows how buildings have co-evolved along with the political and legal practices of the contemporary world.</p> <p>“I really think about myself first as a historian of modernity,” Hyde explains. “Architectural history is the particular vehicle that I use to explore the history of modernity.”</p> <p><strong>The writing on the wall</strong></p> <p>Hyde grew up in New York City’s Greenwich Village and double-majored in English and architecture at Yale University. He then received a master of architecture degree from Princeton University and became a practicing architect, mostly working on residences. But he kept writing about architecture, a fairly common practice in the field.</p> <p>“In architecture, as a profession, writing has always been a companion to the building,” Hyde says. “Many architects write.” But before long, he says, “I just had a recognition that the ideas I wanted to explore were best expressed through writing, as opposed to through building.”</p> <p>At about the same time, Hyde was teaching a course at Northeastern University and soon realized he wanted to fully commit to the academic life.</p> <p>“Instead of trying to write alongside my practice, I realized at that point I wanted to flip the two around and focus on writing as a historian, and to be able to teach and work in academia but still remain engaged in a contemporary conversation about architecture,” Hyde says.</p> <p>Hyde thus returned to school, earning his PhD at Harvard University. He sought out an academic position, and at MIT, has landed in the Program in History, Theory, and Criticism, a highly active group of architectural and art historians within the School of Architecture and Planning.</p> <p>“We’re a humanities discipline, but we’re affiliated very tightly to a professional practice that is itself a composite of art and engineering,” Hyde says. “So the role of the historian within the architecture program is a very broad one. We can talk about many facets of buildings.”</p> <p><strong>Cuba, Britain, and … the South Pole?</strong></p> <p>One hallmark of architectural history at MIT is geographic scope: Professors at the Institute have often made a point of examining the subject in global terms. Hyde takes that approach as well.</p> <p>Hyde’s 2012 book on Cuba — “Constitutional Modernism: Architecture and Civil Society in Cuba, 1933-1959” — stemmed from his realization that Cuba at the time “was an incredibly exciting and fertile place for cultural exchanges and avant-garde aesthetics, and had an economic boom that allowed the commissioning of very innovative projects.”</p> <p>When Cuba drafted a new constitution in the 1940s, philosophers, artists, and writers were a part of the process. Architectural thinking, Hyde contends, was an integral part of the planning and vision of the country — although that became discarded after Cuba’s communist revolution of the late 1950s.</p> <p>“I wrote about the relationship between a national project that was being articulated in political and legal terms, and a national project that was being articulated in terms of architecture and planning,” Hyde says.</p> <p>His book on Britain — “Ugliness and Judgment,” published in 2019 — explores several distinct episodes in which aesthetic disagreements over architecture in London helped produce modern social and legal practices. For instance, Britain’s libel law took shape in response to failed lawsuits filed by Sir John Soane, whose early 19th-century buildings were the object of stinging put-downs from critics.</p> <p>Moreover, in Britain, environmental science and policy have important roots in a controversy of the Houses of Parliament, rebuilt in stone in the 1840s. When the parliament building quickly became smothered in soot, it instigated a decades-long process in which the country gradually charted out new antipollution laws.</p> <p>Hyde is currently working on a third book project, which looks at the historical legacy of buildings that have vanished, from Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond to shelters in Antarctica. Their presence as architectural objects was crucial to the people who inhabited them; Hyde is exploring how this shapes our understanding of the history surrounding them.</p> <p>“Thoreau’s cabin at Walden has an enormous textual presence, but it has virtually no physical presence,” Hyde says. “If the architecture is so central to Thoreau’s book, yet no longer has a presence as a material object, how should architectural history approach that?”</p> <p><strong>Working well with others</strong></p> <p>Beyond his own work, Hyde has helped establish a new, cooperative group of scholars in his field, the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative.</p> <p>The group holds workshops and produces published volumes and pamphlets in architectural history, to aid scholars who often work in isolation. Their edited volume, “Governing by Design: Architecture, Economy, and Politics in the Twentieth Century,” was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.</p> <p>The idea, Hyde says, is “to try to allow for a collaborative conversation that is otherwise not cultivated very strongly within the field.” The group’s in-depth workshops provide scholars with substantive feedback about works in progress.</p> <p>“Having a workshop where you can spend two days talking about each other’s work is an enormous luxury, and something that I have not experienced elsewhere in our field,” Hyde says.</p> <p>Scholars participating in the collaborative can thus can enjoy a win-win situation, pursuing their own work while getting help from others. Perhaps every building is a compromise — but architectural history don’t have to be one.</p> “I really think about myself first as a historian of modernity,” says Associate Professor Timothy Hyde. “Architectural history is the particular vehicle that I use to explore the history of modernity.”Image: Bryce VickmarkSchool of Architecture and Planning, Architecture, Design, History, Law, Politics, Faculty, Profile, Program in HTC Objects can now change colors like a chameleon Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory team creates new reprogrammable ink that lets objects change colors using light. Tue, 10 Sep 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Rachel Gordon | CSAIL <p>The color-changing capabilities of chameleons have long bewildered willing observers. The philosopher Aristotle himself was long mystified by these adaptive creatures. But while humans can’t yet camouflage much beyond a green outfit to match grass, inanimate objects are another story.&nbsp;</p> <p>A team from MIT’s <a href="">Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory</a> (CSAIL) has brought us closer to this chameleon reality, by way of <a href="" target="_blank">a new system</a> that uses reprogrammable ink to let objects change colors when exposed to ultraviolet (UV) and visible light sources.&nbsp;</p> <p>Dubbed “PhotoChromeleon,” the system uses a mix of photochromic dyes that can be sprayed or painted onto the surface of any object to change its color — a fully reversible process that can be repeated infinitely.&nbsp;</p> <p>PhotoChromeleon can be used to customize anything from a phone case to a car, or shoes that need an update. The color remains, even when used in natural environments.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p>“This special type of dye could enable a whole myriad of customization options that could improve manufacturing efficiency and reduce overall waste,” says CSAIL postdoc Yuhua Jin, the lead author on a new paper about the project. “Users could personalize their belongings and appearance on a daily basis, without the need to buy the same object multiple times in different colors and styles.”</p> <p>PhotoChromeleon builds off of the team’s previous system, “<a href="">ColorMod</a>,” which uses a 3-D printer to fabricate items that can change their color. Frustrated by some of the limitations of this project, such as small color scheme and low-resolution results, the team decided to investigate potential updates.&nbsp;</p> <p>With ColorMod, each pixel on an object needed to be printed, so the resolution of each tiny little square was somewhat grainy. As far as colors, each pixel of the object could only have two states: transparent and its own color. So, a blue dye could only go from blue to transparent when activated, and a yellow dye could only show yellow.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>But with PhotoChromeleon’s ink, you can create anything from a zebra pattern to a sweeping landscape to multicolored fire flames, with a larger host of colors.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The team created the ink by mixing cyan, magenta, and yellow (CMY) photochromic dyes into a single sprayable solution, eliminating the need to painstakingly 3-D print individual pixels. By understanding how each dye interacts with different wavelengths, the team was able to control each color channel through activating and deactivating with the corresponding light sources.&nbsp;</p> <p>Specifically, they used three different lights with different wavelengths to eliminate each primary color separately. For example, if you use a blue light, it would mostly be absorbed by the yellow dye and be deactivated, and magenta and cyan would remain, resulting in blue. If you use a green light, magenta would mostly absorb it and be deactivated, and then both yellow and cyan would remain, resulting in green.</p> <p>After coating an object using the solution, the user simply places the object inside a box with a projector and UV light. The UV light saturates the colors from transparent to full saturation, and the projector desaturates the colors as needed. Once the light has activated the colors, the new pattern appears. But if you aren’t satisfied with the design, all you have to do is use the UV light to erase it, and you can start over.&nbsp;</p> <p>They also developed a user interface to automatically process designs and patterns that go onto desired items. The user can load up their blueprint, and the program generates the mapping onto the object before the light works its magic.&nbsp;</p> <p>The team tested the system on a car model, a phone case, a shoe, and a little (toy) chameleon. Depending on the shape and orientation of the object, the process took anywhere from 15 to 40 minutes, and the patterns all had high resolutions and could be successfully erased when desired.&nbsp;</p> <p>“By giving users the autonomy to individualize their items, countless resources could be preserved, and the opportunities to creatively change your favorite possessions are boundless,” says MIT Professor Stefanie Mueller.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>While PhotoChromeleon opens up a much larger color gamut, not all colors were represented in the photochromic dyes. For example, there was no great match for magenta or cyan, so the team had to estimate to the closest dye. They plan to expand on this by collaborating with material scientists to create improved dyes.&nbsp;</p> <p>“We believe incorporation of novel, multi-photochromic inks into traditional materials can add value to Ford products by reducing the cost and time required for fabricating automotive parts,” says Alper Kiziltas, technical specialist of sustainable and emerging materials at Ford Motor Co. (Ford has been working with MIT on the ColorMod 3-D technology through an alliance collaboration.) “This ink could reduce the number of steps required for producing a multicolor part, or improve the durability of the color from weathering or UV degradation. One day, we might even be able to personalize our vehicles on a whim.”</p> <p>Jin and Mueller co-authored the paper alongside CSAIL postdocs Isabel Qamar and Michael Wessely. MIT undergraduates Aradhana Adhikari and Katarina Bulovic also contributed, as well as former MIT postdoc Parinya Punpongsanon.</p> <p>Adhikari received the Morais and Rosenblum Best UROP Award for her contributions to the project.</p> <p>Ford Motor Co. provided financial support, and permission to publish was granted by the Ford Research and Innovation Center.</p> PhotoChromeleon, a reversible process for changing the color of objects developed at MIT, involves a mix of photochromic dyes that can be sprayed or painted onto the surface of any object.Image courtesy of the researchers.Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical engineering and computer science (EECS), School of Engineering, 3-D printing, Computer science and technology, Manufacturing, Design, 3-D imaging, Research, Arts, Sustainability Council for the Arts at MIT welcomes Andrea Volpe as new director The council has funded arts programs at MIT for 47 years. Tue, 03 Sep 2019 13:20:01 -0400 Arts at MIT <p>The Arts at MIT has announced that Andrea Volpe has assumed the position of director of the Council for the Arts at MIT (CAMIT), effective today.</p> <p>CAMIT is a group of up to 100 alumni and friends of MIT who support and promote the arts at the Institute. The council has served the arts at MIT with unflagging enthusiasm and support since it was founded in 1972 by Jerome B. Wiesner, the 13th president of MIT, and looks toward its 50th anniversary in 2022. The organization was created to support “a broadly based, highly participatory program in the arts, firmly founded on teaching, practice, and research at the Institute.”</p> <p>Volpe arrives at a time when the arts at MIT are stronger than ever before, with new arts facilities recently opened and on the horizon, global rankings of MIT arts and design consistently high, international recognition of the arts faculty, and student enrollments in the arts at record levels.</p> <p>Volpe has been program manager for the Mahindra Humanities Center at Harvard University since 2015, where she planned and executed an annual seminar funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, including collaborative ventures with the American Repertory Theater, Harvard Scholars at Risk Program, and the Office of the Dean of Arts and Humanities. Previously, she served as speechwriter to the dean of the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University, working closely with the vice dean for external affairs and the director of communications during a period when the institution’s mission was renewed and expanded. She earned a BA in government from Oberlin College and a PhD in U.S. cultural and intellectual history from Rutgers. She has served as a lecturer in the writing program at MIT and has taught American art, American studies, and American history and literature at various institutions, notably Harvard College, Boston University, and Tufts University.</p> <p>The director’s search was led by associate provost Philip S. Khoury, with responsibility for the arts, and Executive Director of Arts Initiatives Leila W. Kinney, and included two advisers from the Council for the Arts: Hyun-A Park ’83, MCP ’85 (CAMIT chair) and Nancy Lukitsh ’78 (CAMIT treasurer).</p> <p>“Andrea Volpe’s wide-ranging experience in academic communities in the greater Boston area really set her apart,” comments incoming chair Hyun-A Park, “and I am looking forward to working with her as CAMIT embraces the many exciting developments in the arts at MIT.” Nancy Lukitsh adds, “Andrea was described to me as an ‘idea machine’ — and I can’t wait to see what that means for the council.”</p> <p>Volpe will work closely with Kinney, Khoury, and the Office of the Arts to strengthen CAMIT’s connections to the Institute, including faculty in the School of Architecture and Planning and the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, as well as the leaders of the Center for Art, Science, and Technology (CAST), the List Visual Arts Center, and the MIT Museum. CAMIT council members are appointed for three-year, renewable terms by MIT’s president to serve as advocates and ambassadors for the arts at MIT.</p> <p>CAMIT supports students from across the Institute with an <a href="">annual grants cycle</a> and the <a href="">Arts Scholars</a> program, which was endowed by the council. CAMIT members fund the popular <a href="">tickets program</a>, which provides free or subsidized access for MIT students to local arts organizations and performance events, including the Museum of Fine Arts, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Annual donations by CAMIT members fund a <a href="">wide array of programs</a> and arts events at MIT, including the List Visual Arts Center and the MIT Museum, arts awards, visiting artists, concerts, and performances.</p> Andrea Volpe, Council for the Arts at MIT directorPhoto: Arts at MITCenter for Art, Science and Technology, Council for the Arts at MIT, Arts, List Visual Arts Center, MIT Museum, School of Architecture and Planning, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Staff MIT’s fleet of autonomous boats can now shapeshift New capabilities allow “roboats” to change configurations to form pop-up bridges, stages, and other structures. Thu, 29 Aug 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office <p>MIT’s fleet of robotic boats&nbsp;has been updated with new capabilities to “shapeshift,” by autonomously disconnecting and reassembling into a variety of configurations, to form floating structures in Amsterdam’s many canals.</p> <p>The autonomous boats — rectangular hulls equipped with sensors, thrusters, microcontrollers, GPS modules, cameras, and other hardware — are being developed as part of the ongoing “<a href="">Roboat</a>” project between MIT and the Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Metropolitan Solutions (AMS Institute). The&nbsp;project is led by MIT professors Carlo Ratti, Daniela Rus, Dennis Frenchman, and Andrew&nbsp;Whittle. In the future, Amsterdam wants the roboats to cruise its 165 winding canals, transporting goods and people, collecting trash, or self-assembling into “pop-up” platforms — such as bridges and stages — to help relieve congestion on the city’s busy streets.</p> <p>In 2016, MIT researchers&nbsp;<a href="">tested</a> a roboat prototype that could move forward, backward, and laterally along a preprogrammed path in the canals. Last year, researchers <a href="">designed</a> low-cost, 3-D-printed, one-quarter scale versions of the boats, which were more efficient and agile, and came equipped with advanced trajectory-tracking algorithms.&nbsp;In June, they created an autonomous <a href="">latching</a> mechanism that let the boats target and clasp onto each other, and keep trying if they fail.</p> <p>In a new paper presented at the last week’s IEEE International Symposium on Multi-Robot and Multi-Agent Systems, the researchers describe an algorithm that enables the roboats to smoothly reshape themselves as efficiently as possible. The algorithm handles all the planning and tracking that enables groups of roboat units to unlatch from one another in one set configuration, travel a collision-free path, and reattach to their appropriate spot on the new set configuration.<br /> <p>In demonstrations in an MIT pool and in computer simulations, groups of linked roboat units rearranged themselves from straight lines or squares into other configurations, such as rectangles and “L” shapes. The experimental transformations only took a few minutes. More complex shapeshifts may take longer, depending on the number of moving units — which could be dozens —&nbsp;and differences between the two shapes.</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/" /></p> <p>“We’ve enabled the roboats to now make and break connections with other roboats, with hopes of moving activities on the streets of Amsterdam to the water,” says Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) and the Andrew and Erna Viterbi Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “A set of boats can come together to form linear shapes as pop-up bridges, if we need to send materials or people from one side of a canal to the other. Or, we can create pop-up wider platforms for flower or food markets.”</p> <p>Joining Rus on the paper are: Ratti, director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab, and, also from the lab, first author Banti Gheneti, Ryan Kelly, and Drew Meyers, all researchers; postdoc Shinkyu Park; and research fellow Pietro Leoni.</p> <p><strong>Collision-free trajectories</strong></p> <p>For their work, the researchers had to tackle challenges with autonomous planning, tracking, and connecting groups of roboat units. Giving each unit unique capabilities to, for instance, locate each other, agree on how to break apart and reform, and then move around freely, would require complex communication and control techniques that could make movement inefficient and slow.</p> <p>To enable smoother operations, the researchers developed two types of units: coordinators and workers. One or more workers connect to one coordinator to form a single entity, called a “connected-vessel platform” (CVP). All coordinator and worker units have four propellers, a wireless-enabled microcontroller, and several automated latching mechanisms and sensing systems that enable them to link together.</p> <p>Coordinators, however, also come equipped with GPS for navigation, and an inertial measurement unit (IMU), which computes localization, pose, and velocity. Workers only have actuators that help the CVP steer along a path. Each coordinator is aware of and can wirelessly communicate with all connected workers. Structures comprise multiple CVPs, and individual CVPs can latch onto one another to form a larger entity.</p> <p>During shapeshifting, all connected CVPs in a structure compare the geometric differences between its initial shape and new shape. Then, each CVP determines if it stays in the same spot and if it needs to move. Each moving CVP is then assigned a time to disassemble and a new position in the new shape.</p> <p>Each CVP uses a custom trajectory-planning technique to compute a way to reach its target position without interruption, while optimizing the route for speed. To do so, each CVP precomputes all collision-free regions around the moving CVP as it rotates and moves away from a stationary one.</p> <p>After precomputing those collision-free regions, the CVP then finds the shortest trajectory to its final destination, which still keeps it from hitting the stationary unit. Notably, optimization techniques are used to make the whole trajectory-planning process very efficient, with the precomputation taking little more than 100 milliseconds to find and refine safe paths. Using data from the GPS and IMU, the coordinator then estimates its pose and velocity at its center of mass, and wirelessly controls all the propellers of each unit and moves into the target location.</p> <p>In their experiments, the researchers tested three-unit CVPs, consisting of one coordinator and two workers, in several different shapeshifting scenarios. Each scenario involved one CVP unlatching from the initial shape and moving and relatching to a target spot around a second CVP.</p> <p>Three CVPs, for instance, rearranged themselves from a connected straight line — where they were latched together at their sides —&nbsp;into a straight line connected at front and back, as well as an “L.” In computer simulations, up to 12 roboat units rearranged themselves from, say, a rectangle into a square or from a solid square into a Z-like shape.</p> <p><img alt="" src="/sites/" style="width: 500px; height: 281px;" /></p> <p><strong>Scaling up</strong></p> <p>Experiments were conducted on quarter-sized roboat units, which measure about 1 meter long and half a meter wide. But the researchers believe their trajectory-planning algorithm will scale well in controlling full-sized units, which will measure about 4 meters long and 2 meters wide.</p> <p>The researchers hope to use the roboats to form into a dynamic “bridge” across a 60-meter canal between the NEMO Science Museum in Amsterdam’s city center and an area that’s under development. Called <a href="">RoundAround</a>, the idea is to employ roboats to sail in a continuous circle across the canal, picking up and dropping off passengers at docks and stopping or rerouting when they detect anything in the way. Currently, walking around that waterway takes about 10 minutes, but the bridge can cut that time to around two minutes. This is still an explorative concept.</p> <p>“This will be the world’s first bridge comprised of a fleet of autonomous boats,” Ratti says. “A regular bridge would be super expensive, because you have boats going through, so you’d need to have a mechanical bridge that opens up or a very high bridge. But we can connect two sides of canal [by using] autonomous boats that become dynamic, responsive architecture that float on the water.”</p> <p>To reach that goal, the researchers are further developing the roboats to ensure they can safely hold people, and are robust to all weather conditions, such as heavy rain. They’re also making sure the roboats can effectively connect to the sides of the canals, which can vary greatly in structure and design.</p> MIT’s fleet of robotic boats has been updated with new capabilities to “shapeshift,” by autonomously disconnecting and reassembling into different configurations to form various floating platforms in the canals of Amsterdam. In experiments in a pool, the boats rearranged themselves from a connected straight line into an “L” (shown here) and other shapes.Images and gifs: courtesy of the researchersResearch, Robotics, Robots, Computer science and technology, Algorithms, Autonomous vehicles, Transportation, Sensors, Design, Urban studies and planning, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering Ultrathin 3-D-printed films convert energy of one form into another Low-cost “piezoelectric” films produce voltage, could be used for flexible electronic components and more. Wed, 28 Aug 2019 12:12:03 -0400 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office <p>MIT researchers have developed a simple, low-cost method to 3-D print ultrathin films with high-performing “piezoelectric” properties, which could be used for components in flexible electronics or highly sensitive biosensors.</p> <p>Piezoelectric materials produce a voltage in response to physical strain, and they respond to a voltage by physically deforming. They’re commonly used for transducers, which convert energy of one form into another. Robotic actuators, for instance, use piezoelectric materials to move joints and parts in response to an electrical signal. And various sensors use the materials to convert changes in pressure, temperature, force, and other physical stimuli, into a measurable electrical signal.</p> <p>Researchers have been trying for years to develop piezoelectric ultrathin films that can be used as energy harvesters, sensitive pressure sensors for touch screens, and other components in flexible electronics. The films could also be used as tiny biosensors that are sensitive enough to detect the presence of molecules that are biomarkers for certain diseases and conditions.</p> <p>The material of choice for those applications is often a type of ceramic with a crystal structure that resonates at high frequencies due to its extreme thinness. (Higher frequencies basically translate to faster speeds and higher sensitivity.) But, with traditional fabrication techniques, creating ceramic ultrathin films is a complex and expensive process.</p> <p>In a paper recently published in the journal <em>Applied Materials and Interfaces</em>, the MIT researchers describe a way to 3-D print ceramic transducers about 100 nanometers thin by adapting an additive manufacturing technique for the process that builds objects layer by layer, at room temperature. The films can be printed in flexible substrates with no loss in performance, and can resonate at around 5 gigahertz, which is high enough for high-performance biosensors.</p> <p>“Making transducing components is at the heart of the technological revolution,” says Luis Fernando Velásquez-García, a researcher in the Microsystems Technology Laboratories (MTL) in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “Until now, it’s been thought 3-D-printed transducing materials will have poor performances. But we’ve developed an additive fabrication method for piezoelectric transducers at room temperature, and the materials oscillate at gigahertz-level frequencies, which is orders of magnitude higher than anything previously fabricated through 3-D printing.”</p> <p>Joining Velásquez-García on the paper is first author Brenda García-Farrera of MTL and the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education in Mexico.</p> <p><strong>Electrospraying nanoparticles</strong></p> <p>Ceramic piezoelectric thin films, made of aluminum nitride or zinc oxide, can be fabricated through physical vapor deposition and chemical vapor deposition. But those processes must be completed in sterile clean rooms, under high temperature and high vacuum conditions. That can be a time-consuming, expensive process.</p> <p>There are lower-cost 3-D-printed piezoelectric thin films available. But those are fabricated with polymers, which must be “poled”— meaning they must be given piezoelectric properties after they’re printed. Moreover, those materials usually end up tens of microns thick and thus can’t be made into ultrathin films capable of high-frequency actuation.</p> <p>The researchers’ system adapts an additive fabrication technique, called near-field electrohydrodynamic deposition (NFEHD), which uses high electric fields to eject a liquid jet through a nozzle to print an ultrathin film. Until now, the technique has not been used to print films with piezoelectric properties.</p> <p>The researchers’ liquid feedstock — raw material used in 3-D printing —&nbsp;contains zinc oxide nanoparticles mixed with some inert solvents, which forms into a piezoelectric material when printed onto a substrate and dried. The feedstock is fed through a hollow needle in a 3-D printer. As it prints, the researchers apply a specific bias voltage to the tip of the needle and control the flow rate, causing the meniscus — the curve seen at the top of a liquid —&nbsp;to form into a cone shape that ejects a fine jet from its tip.</p> <p>The jet is naturally inclined to break into droplets. But when the researchers bring the tip of the needle close to the substrate —&nbsp;about a millimeter —&nbsp;the jet doesn’t break apart. That process prints long, narrow lines on a substrate. They then overlap the lines and dry them at about 76 degrees Fahrenheit, hanging upside down.</p> <p>Printing the film precisely that way creates an ultrathin film of crystal structure with piezoelectric properties that resonates at about 5 gigahertz. “If anything of that process is missing, it doesn’t work,” Velásquez-García says.</p> <p>Using microscopy techniques, the team was able to prove that the films have a much stronger piezoelectric response — meaning the measurable signal it emits — than films made through traditional bulk fabrication methods. Those methods don’t really control the film’s piezoelectric axis direction, which determines the material’s response. “That was a little surprising,” Velásquez-García says. “In those bulk materials, they may have inefficiencies in the structure that affect performance. But when you can manipulate materials at the nanoscale, you get a stronger piezoelectric response.”</p> <p>“This very nice body of work demonstrates the feasibility of preparing functional piezoelectric films using 3-D printing techniques,” says Mark Allen, a professor specializing in microfabrication, nanotechnology, and microelectromechanical systems at the University of Pennsylvania. “Exploitation of this fabrication technique can lead to complex, three-dimensional, and low temperature fabrication of piezoelectric structures. I expect we will see new classes of microscale sensors, actuators, and resonators enabled by this exciting fabrication technology."</p> <p><strong>Low-cost sensors</strong></p> <p>Because the piezoelectric ultrathin films are 3-D printed and resonate at very high frequencies, they can be leveraged to fabricate low-cost, highly sensitive sensors. The researchers are currently working with colleagues in Monterrey Tec as part of a collaborative program in nanoscience and nanotechnology, to make piezoelectric biosensors to detect biomarkers for certain diseases and conditions.</p> <p>A resonating circuit is integrated into these biosensors, which makes the piezoelectric ultrathin film oscillate at a specific frequency, and the piezoelectric material can be functionalized to attract certain molecule biomarkers to its surface. When the molecules stick to the surface, it causes the piezoelectric material to slightly shift the frequency oscillations of the circuit. That small frequency shift can be measured and correlated to a certain amount of the molecule that piles up on its surface.</p> <p>The researchers are also developing a sensor to measure the decay of electrodes in fuel cells. That would function similarly to the biosensor, but the shifts in frequency would correlate to the degradation of a certain alloy in the electrodes. “We’re making sensors that can diagnose the health of fuel cells, to see if they need to be replaced,” Velásquez-García says. “If you assess the health of these systems in real time, you can make decisions about when to replace them, before something serious happens.”</p> MIT researchers have 3-D printed ultrathin ceramic films that convert energy from one form into another for flexible electronics and biosensors. Here, they’ve printed the piezoelectric films into a pattern spelling out “MIT.”Research, Microsystems Technology Laboratories, 3-D printing, Design, Manufacturing, Materials Science and Engineering, electronics, Disease, Health sciences and technology, Nanoscience and nanotechnology, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering A major expansion for the Green Building $60 million upgrade will add 12,000 square feet for meetings, classrooms, and study spaces. Thu, 22 Aug 2019 12:00:01 -0400 MIT Resource Development <p>Rising nearly 300 feet from the ground, the Cecil and Ida Green Building, aka <a href="" target="_blank">Building 54</a>, stands out as not only the tallest building on MIT’s campus but also (until recently) the tallest building in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Yet it’s not obvious from the outside what actually goes on within this imposing 55-year-old structure designed by the late I.M. Pei ’40.</p> <p>People on campus tours often hear about the annual pumpkin drop, or about instances when students have commandeered the Green Building’s LED-equipped windows to play giant games of Tetris. But not everyone learns about the groundbreaking work carried out inside — such as the development of chaos theory, seismic tomography, numerical weather prediction, climate modeling, and far-reaching NASA missions.</p> <p>This is the headquarters of MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), and plans are now underway to give Building 54 a major facelift, including a new LEED-certified addition that will offer a window into the important work taking place inside.</p> <p>The $60 million upgrade will allow construction of an Earth and Environment Pavilion designed to be a vital center for environmental and climate research on MIT’s campus. With assistance from the Institute and generous private donors — including John H. Carlson; George Elbaum ’59, SM ’63, PhD ’67; Fred A. Middleton Jr. ’71; Neil Pappalardo ’64; and Shell — EAPS recently passed the midway point on its $30 million fundraising campaign for the new pavilion and other improvements to the Green Building, such as a renovated lecture hall (54-100) to be renamed the Shell Auditorium.</p> <p>The project will yield about 12,000 square feet of additional space, providing new meeting places, classrooms, and study areas. The enlarged and revamped Green Building is expected to help EAPS attract and retain top faculty and students. But the more ambitious objective is to enhance the research undertaken within the department by co-locating EAPS and the MIT-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program with the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative, affording greater opportunities for interaction and the cross-pollination of ideas.</p> <p><em>This article originally appeared in <a href="" target="_blank">MIT Spectrum</a>. </em></p> An artist’s rendering depicts the Green Building (Building 54), home to the MIT Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences, with the planned Earth and Environment Pavilion.Image: EllenzweigEAPS, Woods Hole, Campus buildings and architecture, Design, Earth and atmospheric sciences, Space, astronomy and planetary science, School of Science, Alumni/ae, ESI, Giving The music of the spheres MIT hosts &quot;Songs from Extrasolar Spaces,&quot; a musical melding of art and science inspired by the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS). Fri, 09 Aug 2019 13:25:01 -0400 Ken Shulman | Arts at MIT <p>Space has long fascinated poets, physicists, astronomers, and science fiction writers. Musicians, too, have often found beauty and meaning in the skies above. At MIT’s Kresge Auditorium, a group of composers and musicians manifested their fascination with space in a concert titled “Songs from Extrasolar Spaces.” Featuring the Lorelei Ensemble — a Boston, Massachusetts-based women’s choir — the concert included premieres by MIT composers John Harbison and Elena Ruehr, along with compositions by Meredith Monk and Molly Herron. All the music was inspired by discoveries in astronomy.</p> <p>“Songs from Extrasolar Spaces,” part of an MIT conference on TESS — the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite, launched in April 2018. TESS is an MIT-led NASA mission that scans the skies for evidence of exoplanets: bodies ranging from dwarf planets to giant planets that orbit stars other than our sun. During its two-year mission, TESS and its four highly-sensitive cameras survey 85 percent of the sky, monitoring more than 200,000 stars for the temporary dips in brightness that might signal a transit — the passage of a planetary body across that star.</p> <p>“There is a feeling you get when you look at these images from TESS,” says Ruehr, an award-winning MIT lecturer in the Music and Theater Arts Section and former Guggenheim Fellow. “A sense of vastness, of infinity. This is the sensation I tried to capture and transpose into vocal music.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Supported by the MIT Center for Art, Science and Technology’s Fay Chandler Creativity Grant; MIT Music and Theater Arts; and aerospace and technology giant Northrop Grumman, which also built the TESS satellite, the July 30 concert was conceived by MIT Research Associate Natalia Guerrero. Both the conference and concert marked the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing — another milestone in the quest to chart the universe and Earth’s place in it.</p> <p>A 2014 MIT graduate, Guerrero manages the team finding planet candidates in the TESS images at the MIT Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research and is also the lead for the MIT branch of the mission’s communications team. “I wanted to include an event that could make the TESS mission accessible to people who aren’t astronomers or physicists,” says Guerrero. “But I also wanted that same event to inspire astronomers and physicists to look at their work in a new way.”</p> <p>Guerrero majored in physics and creative writing at MIT, and after graduating she deejayed a radio show called “Voice Box” on the MIT radio station WMBR. That transmission showcased contemporary vocal music and exposed her to composers including Harbison and Ruehr. Last year, in early summer, Guerrero contacted Ruehr to gauge her interest in composing music for a still-hypothetical concert that might complement the 2019 TESS conference.</p> <p>Ruehr was keen on the idea. She was also a perfect fit for the project. The composer had often drawn inspiration from visual images and other art forms for her music. “Sky Above Clouds,” an orchestral piece she composed in 1989, is inspired by the Georgia O’Keefe paintings she viewed as a child at the Art Institute of Chicago. Ruehr had also created music inspired by David Mitchell’s visionary novel “Cloud Atlas” and Anne Patchett’s “Bel Canto.” “It’s a question of reinterpreting language, capturing its rhythms and volumes and channeling them into music,” says Ruehr. “The source language can be fiction, or painting, or in this case these dazzling images of the universe.”</p> <p>In addition, Ruehr had long been fascinated by space and stars. “My father was a mathematician who studied fast Fourier transform analysis,” says Ruehr, who is currently composing an opera set in space. “As a young girl, I’d listen to him talking about infinity with his colleagues on the telephone. I would imagine my father existing in infinity, on the edge of space.”</p> <p>Drawing inspiration from the images TESS beams back to Earth, Ruehr composed two pieces for “Songs from Extrasolar Spaces.” The first, titled “Not from the Stars,” takes its name and lyrics from a Shakespeare sonnet. For the second, “Exoplanets,” Ruehr used a text that Guerrero extrapolated from the titles of the first group of scientific papers published from TESS data. “I’m used to working from images,” explains Ruehr. “First, I study them. Then, I sit down at the piano and try to create a single sound that captures their essence and resonance. Then, I start playing with that sound.”</p> <p>Ruehr was particularly pleased to compose music about space for the Lorelei Ensemble. “There’s a certain quality in a women’s choir, especially the Lorelei Ensemble, that is perfectly suited for this project,” says Ruehr. “They have an ethereal sound and wonderful harmonic structures that make us feel as if we’re perceiving a small dab of brightness in an envelope of darkness.”</p> <p>At the 2019 MIT TESS conference, experts from across the globe shared results from the first year of observation in the sky above the Southern Hemisphere, and discussed plans for the second-year trek above the Northern Hemisphere. The composers and musicians hope “Songs from Extrasolar Spaces” brought attention to the TESS missions, offers a new perspective on space exploration, and will perhaps spark further collaborations between scientists and artists. George Ricker, TESS principal investigator; Sara Seager, TESS deputy director of science; and Guerrero presented a pre-concert lecture. “Music has the power to generate incredibly powerful emotions,” says Ruehr. “So do these images from TESS. In many ways, they are more beautiful than any stars we might ever imagine.”</p> <p>TESS is a NASA Astrophysics Explorer mission led and operated by MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and managed by Goddard Spaceflight Center. Additional partners include Northrop Grumman, based in Falls Church, Virginia; NASA’s Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley; the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge; MIT Lincoln Laboratory; and the Space Telescope Science Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. More than a dozen universities, research institutes, and observatories worldwide are participants in the mission.</p> The Lorelei Ensemble performs in "Songs from Extrasolar Spaces: Music Inspired by TESS" on July 30 in MIT's Kresge Auditorium.Photo: Danny GoldfieldArts, Center for Art, Science and Technology, School of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences, Kavli Institute, Astronomy, NASA, TESS, Music, Faculty, School of Engineering, Satellites, Exoplanets, Theater, Special events and guest speakers, Technology and society, Space, astronomy and planetary science, Aeronautical and astronautical engineering, Alumni/ae 3Q: Jeremy Gregory on measuring the benefits of hazard resilience MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub scientist explains how rating systems akin to LEED for resilient construction can make communities more hazard-resistant. Wed, 07 Aug 2019 12:30:01 -0400 Andrew Logan | Concrete Sustainability Hub <p><em>According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the combined cost of natural disasters in the United States was $91 billion in 2018. The year before, natural disasters inflicted even greater damage — $306.2 billion. Traditionally, investment in mitigating these damages has gone toward disaster response. While important, disaster response is only one part of disaster mitigation. By putting more resources into disaster readiness, communities can reduce the time it takes to recover from a disaster while decreasing loss of life and damage costs. Experts refer to this preemptive approach as resilience.</em></p> <p><em>Resilience entails a variety of actions. In the case of individual buildings, it can be as straightforward as increasing the nail size in roof panels, using thicker windows, and increasing the resistance of roof shingles. On a broader scale, it involves predicting vulnerabilities in a community and preparing for surge pricing and other economic consequences associated with disasters.</em></p> <p><em>MIT Concrete Sustainability Hub Executive Director Jeremy Gregory weighs in on why resilience hasn’t been widely adopted in the United States and what can be done to change that.</em></p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>What is resilience in the context of disaster mitigation?<strong> </strong></p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Resilience is how one responds to a change, usually that is in the context of some type of disaster — whether it’s natural or manmade. There are three components of resilience: How significant is the damage due to the disaster? How long does it take to recover? What is the level of recovery after a certain amount of time?</p> <p>It’s important to invest in resilience since we can mitigate significant expenses and loss of life due to disasters before they occur. So, if we build more resilient in the first place, then we don’t end up spending as much on the response to a disaster and communities can more quickly become operational again.</p> <p>Generally, building construction is not particularly resilient. That’s primarily because the incentives aren’t aligned for creating resilient construction. For example, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which handles disaster response, invests significantly more in post-disaster mitigation efforts than it does in pre-disaster mitigation efforts — the funds are an order of magnitude greater for the former. Part of that could be that we’re relying on an agency that’s primarily focused on emergency response to help us prepare for avoiding an emergency response. But primarily, that’s because when buildings are purchased, we don’t have information on the resiliency of the building.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>What is needed to make resilience more widely adopted?</p> <p><strong>A:</strong> Essentially, we need a robust approach for quantifying the benefits of resilience for a diverse range of contexts. For a lot of buildings, the construction decisions are not made in consultation with the ultimate owner of the building. A developer has to make decisions based on what they think the owner will value. And right now, owners don’t communicate that they value resilience. I think a big part of that is that they don’t have enough quantitative information about why one building is more resilient than another.</p> <p>So, for example, when it comes to the fuel economy of our automobiles, we now have a consistent way to measure that fuel economy and communicate fuel consumption costs over the life cycle of the vehicle. Or similarly, we have a way of measuring the energy consumption of appliances that we buy and quantifying those costs throughout the product life. We currently don’t have a robust system for quantifying the resilience of a building and how that will translate into costs associated with repairs due to hazards over the lifetime of the building.</p> <p><strong>Q: </strong>Is building resilient expensive?<strong> </strong></p> <p><strong>A: </strong>Building resilient does not have to be significantly more expensive than conventional construction. Our research has shown that more resilient construction can cost less than 10 percent more than conventional construction. But those increased initial costs are offset by lower expenses associated with hazard repairs over the lifetime of the building. So, in some of the cases we looked at in residential construction, the payback periods for the more hazard-resistant construction were five years or less in areas prone to hurricane damage. Our other research on the break-even mitigation percentage has shown that, in some of the most hurricane-prone areas, you can spend up to nearly 20 percent more on the initial investment of the building and break even on your expenses over a 30-year period, including from the damages due to hazards, compared to a conventional building that will sustain more damage.</p> <p>It’s important for owners to know how significant these costs are and what the life-cycle benefits are for more hazard-resistant construction<strong>. </strong>Once developers know that homeowners value that information, that will create more market demand for hazard-resistant construction and ultimately lead to the development of safer and more resilient communities.</p> <p>A similar shift has occurred in the demand for green buildings, and that’s primarily due to rating systems like LEED [<span class="ILfuVd"><span class="e24Kjd">Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design]</span></span>: developers now construct buildings with green rating systems because they know there is a market premium for those buildings, since owners value them. We need to create a similar kind of demand for resilient construction.</p> <p>There are several resilient rating systems already in place. The Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety, for example, has developed the <a href="">Fortified</a> rating system, which informs homeowners and builders about hazard risks and ranks building designs according to certain levels of protection. The U.S. Resiliency Council’s <a href="">Building Rating System</a> is another model that offers four rating levels and currently focuses primarily on earthquakes. Additionally, there is the <a href="">REli</a> rating by the U.S. Green Building Council — the same organization that runs the LEED ratings. These are all good efforts to communicate resilient construction, but there are also opportunities to incorporate more quantitative estimates of resilience into the rating systems.</p> <p>The rise of these kinds of resilience rating systems is particularly timely since the annual cost of hazard-induced damage is expected to increase over the next century due to climate change and development in hazard-prone areas. But with new standards for quantifying resilience, we can motivate hazard-resistant construction that protects communities and mitigates the consequences of climate change.</p> An aerial photograph of a home built to FEMA standards in the aftermath of Hurricane KatrinaPhoto: John Fleck/Wikimedia CommonsConcrete Sustainability Hub, Civil and environmental engineering, School of Engineering, Sustainability, Hurricanes, Natural disasters, Climate change, Urban studies and planning, Architecture Computer-aided knitting New research from the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory uses machine learning to customize clothing designs. Tue, 06 Aug 2019 11:35:52 -0400 Rachel Gordon | CSAIL <p>The oldest known knitting item dates back to Egypt in the Middle Ages, by way of a pair of <a href="" target="_blank">carefully handcrafted socks.</a> Although handmade clothes have occupied our closets for centuries, a recent influx of high-tech knitting machines have changed how we now create our favorite pieces.&nbsp;</p> <p>These systems, which have made anything from <a href="" target="_blank">Prada sweaters</a> to <a href="" target="_blank">Nike shirts</a>, are still far from seamless. Programming machines for designs can be a tedious and complicated ordeal: When you have to specify every single stitch, one mistake can throw off the entire garment.&nbsp;</p> <p>In a new pair of papers, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) have come up with a new approach to streamline the process: a new system and design tool for automating knitted garments.&nbsp;</p> <p>In one paper, a team created a system called “InverseKnit”, that translates photos of knitted patterns into instructions that are then used with machines to make clothing. An approach like this could let casual users create designs without a memory bank of coding knowledge, and even reconcile issues of efficiency and waste in manufacturing.&nbsp;</p> <p>“As far as machines and knitting go, this type of system could change accessibility for people looking to be the designers of their own items,'' says Alexandre Kaspar, CSAIL PhD student and lead author on a new paper about the system. “We want to let casual users get access to machines without needed programming expertise, so they can reap the benefits of customization by making use of machine learning for design and manufacturing.”&nbsp;</p> <p>In another paper, researchers came up with a computer-aided design tool for customizing knitted items. The tool lets non-experts use templates for adjusting patterns and shapes, like adding a triangular pattern to a beanie, or vertical stripes to a sock. You can image users making items customized to their own bodies, while also personalizing for preferred aesthetics.</p> <div class="cms-placeholder-content-video"></div> <p><strong>InverseKnit&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Automation has already reshaped the fashion industry as we know it, with potential positive residuals of changing our manufacturing footprint as well.&nbsp;</p> <p>To get InverseKnit up and running, the team first created a dataset of knitting instructions, and the matching images of those patterns. They then trained their deep neural network on that data to interpret the 2-D knitting instructions from images.&nbsp;</p> <p>This might look something like giving the system a photo of a glove, and then letting the model produce a set of instructions, where the machine then follows those commands to output the design.&nbsp;</p> <p>When testing InverseKnit, the team found that it produced accurate instructions 94% of the time.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Current state-of-the-art computer vision techniques are data-hungry, and they need many examples to model the world effectively,” says Jim McCann, assistant professor in the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute. “With InverseKnit, the team collected an immense dataset of knit samples that, for the first time, enables modern computer vision techniques to be used to recognize and parse knitting patterns.”&nbsp;</p> <p>While the system currently works with a small sample size, the team hopes to expand the sample pool to employ InverseKnit on a larger scale. Currently, the team only used a specific type of acrylic yarn, but they hope to test different materials to make the system more flexible.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>A tool for knitting</strong></p> <p>While there’s been plenty of developments in the field — such as Carnegie Mellon’s automated knitting processes for <a href="">3-D meshes</a> — these methods can often be complex and ambiguous. The distortions inherent in 3-D shapes hamper how we understand the positions of the items, and this can be a burden on the designers.&nbsp;</p> <p>To address this design issue, Kaspar and his colleagues developed a tool called “CADKnit”, which uses 2-D images, CAD software, and photo editing techniques to let casual users customize templates for knitted designs.</p> <p>The tool lets users design both patterns and shapes in the same interface. With other software systems, you’d likely lose some work on either end when customizing both.&nbsp;</p> <p>“Whether it’s for the everyday user who wants to mimic a friend’s beanie hat, or a subset of the public who might benefit from using this tool in a manufacturing setting, we’re aiming to make the process more accessible for personal customization,'' says Kaspar.&nbsp;</p> <p>The team tested the usability of CADKnit by having non-expert users create patterns for their garments and adjust the size and shape. In post-test surveys, the users said they found it easy to manipulate and customize their socks or beanies, successfully fabricating multiple knitted samples. They noted that lace patterns were tricky to design correctly and would benefit from fast realistic simulation.</p> <p>However the system is only a first step towards full garment customization. The authors found that garments with complicated interfaces between different parts — such as sweaters — didn’t work well with the design tool. The trunk of sweaters and sleeves can be connected in various ways, and the software didn’t yet have a way of describing the whole design space for that.</p> <p>Furthermore, the current system can only use one yarn for a shape, but the team hopes to improve this by introducing a stack of yarn at each stitch. To enable work with more complex patterns and larger shapes, the researchers plan to use hierarchical data structures that don’t incorporate all stitches, just the necessary ones.</p> <p>“The impact of 3-D knitting has the potential to be even bigger than that of 3-D printing. Right now, design tools are holding the technology back, which is why this research is so important to the future,” says McCann.&nbsp;</p> <p>A paper on InverseKnit was presented by Kaspar alongside MIT postdocs Tae-Hyun Oh and Petr Kellnhofer, PhD student Liane Makatura, MIT undergraduate Jacqueline Aslarus, and MIT Professor Wojciech Matusik. It was presented at the International Conference on Machine Learning this past June in Long Beach, California.&nbsp;</p> <p>A paper on the design tool was led by Kaspar alongside Makatura and Matusik.</p> Researchers at MIT demonstrated gloves fabricated by a system for automating knitted garments. Image: MIT CSAILResearch, 3-D printing, 3-D, Additive manufacturing, Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), Design, Manufacturing, Mechanical engineering, DMSE, Materials Science and Engineering, Software, Computer modeling, Computer science and technology, Arts, School of Engineering Tekuma Frenchman designs new marine city in China School of Architecture and Planning alumni and faculty team up to create an ecologically restorative urban waterfront. Wed, 24 Jul 2019 13:50:01 -0400 Devi Lockwood | School of Architecture and Planning <p>Following their graduation in 2016, two dual-degree students from the MIT Center for Real Estate (CRE) and the Department of Architecture — Kun Qian MSRED '16, MArch ’16 and Marwan Aboudib MSRED '16, MArch ’16 — asked Professor Dennis Frenchman if he would join with their firm, Tekuma, to create an international design practice. &nbsp;</p> <p>“They came to me and said, ‘Look, we have this project opportunity in Jinan, [China],’” says Frenchman, the Class of ’22 Professor of Urban Design and Planning and now CRE director. “Would you like to join us?”</p> <p>Frenchman said yes. The resulting urban design and innovation studio, <a href="">Tekuma Frenchman</a>, practices worldwide, applying Frenchman’s research at MIT to many scales of intervention — from planning cities for millions in China to art and cultural installations in the Middle East and Boston, Massachusetts. In addition to Qian, Aboudib, and Frenchman, the partnership includes urban designer Naomi Hebert and a staff of 10 working in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Dubai; and Beijing. &nbsp;</p> <p>The firm’s projects include design of Seoul Digital Media City in South Korea; the Digital Mile in Zaragoza, Spain; Ciudad Creativa Digital, Guadalajara, Mexico; Media City: UK in England; Twofour54 in Abu Dhabi; Jinan North New District and Chanqing University City in China; and, more recently, projects in cities across the Middle East. &nbsp;</p> <p>In 2018, Tekuma Frenchman won the <a href="">Shenzhen New Marine City International Design Competition</a> in China. Their design, titled “Ocean Edge,” will be home to 50,000 people on 5.5 square kilometers of reclaimed land.</p> <p>The competition was part of China’s 13th Five-Year Plan for the Development of the National Marine Economy, which aims to advance manufacturing industry along China’s southern coast.</p> <p>Shenzhen is a city of more than 12 million in the Guangdong province of southern China, where Hong Kong links to China’s mainland. Shenzhen was the first special economic zone in China that encouraged outside investment and is the home to high-tech industries in computer science, robotics, artificial intelligence, and data storage.</p> <p>The urban design competition for Shenzhen New Marine City received over 140 design submissions from international firms. A jury of nine design professionals and senior academics selected Tekuma Frenchman’s proposal. The organizers wanted a scheme that would be both innovative and operable, and become a world-class demonstration site for the future of marine economy and sustainability.</p> <p>Frenchman’s winning scheme integrates marine ecology, marine industry, marine culture, and coastal landscape, providing the design framework for a visionary development. Land reclamation for Ocean Edge has already begun, and key aspects of the development will be in place by 2022. It is expected that the project will take about 20 years to complete.</p> <p><strong>Piers and mangroves as a solution</strong></p> <p>The waterfront site poses many challenges. To minimize the use of fill and disruption of water flow, Tekuma Frenchman decided to put parts of the city on piers, islands, and autonomous floating structures.</p> <p>A 1-kilometer central entertainment pier will connect Shenzhen’s convention center with the ocean and anchor recreation areas along the waterfront. This pier and boardwalk area includes a ferry terminal, port offices, deep-sea aquarium, theater, cinemas, clubs, water sports, seafood restaurants, and specialty retail shops.</p> <p>Tekuma Frenchman’s design will regenerate an indigenous mangrove forest to protect the shoreline from waves, retain soil, support biodiversity, and help clean the water. The design also provides a habitat for fish. The growth of the forest will be monitored by sensors controlling the mix of freshwater runoff with salt water, ensuring an ideal habitat for optimum growth of marine fauna and flora. In this way, Ocean Edge both senses and responds to the natural environment.</p> <p>Sea-level rise and storm surge from the South China Sea is a concern in Shenzhen. Ocean Edge helps prevent flooding by using the regenerated mangrove forest as a natural protection from storm surge. “There’s a sustainable matrix into which this contemporary city is built,” Frenchman says.</p> <p><strong>Promoting ocean industry</strong></p> <p>The heartbeat of the city is a new industry cluster dedicated to deep-sea exploration and resource extraction, using autonomous undersea vehicles.</p> <p>Robotic vehicles will be researched, developed, and deployed from Ocean Edge to, for example, scavenge manganese nodules from the ocean floor or to manage fish and agricultural production. A spine of development, accessible directly to the water, will house private labs, academic research institutions, and public agencies devoted to understanding and exploiting the resources of the South China Sea.</p> <p>Production and manufacturing for this industry cluster are woven in with housing and entertainment.</p> <p>“Most of the new cities out there are built as places to consume — shopping, eating, culture,” Frenchman says. “What’s interesting about the Ocean Edge design in Shenzhen is its focus on making a productive city with emerging 21st century industries and lifestyles at its heart. Ocean Edge will become a key link in the chain of manufacturing cities which make up the Guangzhou-Shenzhen Innovation Corridor.”</p> <p>“Over the years we have been researching and implementing a new methodology to design cities that celebrate production, making places that are human-centric and productive,” says Kun Qian. “We believe that the future is moving toward a productive urbanism, where companies from all economic sectors also participate in the shaping of our public realm and creating unique experiences for people. The Ocean Edge proposal is a great testimony to this approach.”</p> <p>“What differentiates our firm is that our work goes beyond design,” says partner Marwan Aboudib. “The key is our integration of design with real estate economics and technology. Our understanding and ability to bring those domains together enables us to create more vibrant cities in which people can excel. We make it possible for cities to thrive, which creates stronger returns for businesses and residents.”</p> <p>For a video of Tekuma Frenchman’s winning design, see <a href="">Vimeo.</a></p> Mangroves will protect the shoreline from waves, retain soil, support biodiversity, and help clean the water. Image: Tekuma FrenchmanCenter for Real Estate, Architecture, School of Architecture and Planning, Alumni/ae, Faculty, China, Design, Transportation, Cities, Urban studies and planning, Sustainability Microfluidics device helps diagnose sepsis in minutes When time matters in hospitals, automated system can detect an early biomarker for the potentially life-threatening condition. Tue, 23 Jul 2019 00:00:00 -0400 Rob Matheson | MIT News Office <p>A novel sensor designed by MIT researchers could dramatically accelerate the process of diagnosing sepsis, a leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals that kills nearly 250,000 patients annually.</p> <p>Sepsis occurs when the body’s immune response to infection triggers an inflammation chain reaction throughout the body, causing high heart rate, high fever, shortness of breath, and other issues. If left unchecked, it can lead to septic shock, where blood pressure falls and organs shut down. To diagnose sepsis, doctors traditionally rely on various diagnostic tools, including vital signs, blood tests, and other imaging and lab tests.</p> <p>In recent years, researchers have found protein biomarkers in the blood that are early indicators of sepsis. One promising candidate is interleukin-6 (IL-6), a protein produced in response to inflammation. In sepsis patients, IL-6 levels can rise hours before other symptoms begin to show. But even at these elevated levels, the concentration of this protein in the blood is too low overall for traditional assay devices to detect it quickly.</p> <p>In a paper being presented this week at the Engineering in Medicine and Biology Conference, MIT researchers describe a microfluidics-based system that automatically detects clinically significant levels of IL-6 for sepsis diagnosis in about 25 minutes, using less than a finger prick of blood.</p> <p>In one microfluidic channel, microbeads laced with antibodies mix with a blood sample to capture the IL-6 biomarker. In another channel, only beads containing the biomarker attach to an electrode. Running voltage through the electrode produces an electrical signal for each biomarker-laced bead, which is then converted into the biomarker concentration level.</p> <p>“For an acute disease, such as sepsis, which progresses very rapidly and can be life-threatening, it’s helpful to have a system that rapidly measures these nonabundant biomarkers,” says first author Dan Wu, a PhD student in the Department of Mechanical Engineering. “You can also frequently monitor the disease as it progresses.”</p> <p>Joining Wu on the paper is Joel Voldman, a professor and associate head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, co-director of the Medical Electronic Device Realization Center, and a principal investigator in the Research Laboratory of Electronics and the Microsystems Technology Laboratories.</p> <p><strong>Integrated, automated design</strong></p> <p>Traditional assays that detect protein biomarkers are bulky, expensive machines relegated to labs that require about a milliliter of blood and produce results in hours. In recent years, portable “point-of-care” systems have been developed that use microliters of blood to get similar results in about 30 minutes.</p> <p>But point-of-care systems can be very expensive since most use pricey optical components to detect the biomarkers. They also capture only a small number of proteins, many of which are among the more abundant ones in blood. Any efforts to decrease the price, shrink down components, or increase protein ranges negatively impacts their sensitivity.</p> <p>In their work, the researchers wanted to shrink components of the magnetic-bead-based assay, which is often used in labs, onto an automated microfluidics device that’s roughly several square centimeters. That required manipulating beads in micron-sized channels and fabricating a device in the Microsystems Technology Laboratory that automated the movement of fluids.</p> <p>The beads are coated with an antibody that attracts IL-6, as well as a catalyzing enzyme called horseradish peroxidase. The beads and blood sample are injected into the device, entering into an “analyte-capture zone,” which is basically a loop. Along the loop is a peristaltic pump — commonly used for controlling liquids — with valves automatically controlled by an external circuit. Opening and closing the valves in specific sequences circulates the blood and beads to mix together. After about 10 minutes, the IL-6 proteins have bound to the antibodies on the beads.</p> <p>Automatically reconfiguring the valves at that time forces the mixture into a smaller loop, called the “detection zone,” where they stay trapped. A tiny magnet collects the beads for a brief wash before releasing them around the loop. After about 10 minutes, many beads have stuck on an electrode coated with a separate antibody that attracts IL-6. At that time, a solution flows into the loop and washes the untethered beads, while the ones with IL-6 protein remain on the electrode.</p> <p>The solution carries a specific molecule that reacts to the horseradish enzyme to create a compound that responds to electricity. When a voltage is applied to the solution, each remaining bead creates a small current. A common chemistry technique called “amperometry” converts that current into a readable signal. The device counts the signals and calculates the concentration of IL-6.</p> <p>“On their end, doctors just load in a blood sample using a pipette. Then, they press a button and 25 minutes later they know the IL-6 concentration,” Wu says.</p> <p>The device uses about 5 microliters of blood, which is about a quarter the volume of blood drawn from a finger prick and a fraction of the 100 microliters required to detect protein biomarkers in lab-based assays. The device captures IL-6 concentrations as low as 16 picograms per milliliter, which is below the concentrations that signal sepsis, meaning the device is sensitive enough to provide clinically relevant detection.</p> <p><strong>A general platform</strong></p> <p>The current design has eight separate microfluidics channels to measure as many different biomarkers or blood samples in parallel. Different antibodies and enzymes can be used in separate channels to detect different biomarkers, or different antibodies can be used in the same channel to detect several biomarkers simultaneously.</p> <p>Next, the researchers plan to create a panel of important sepsis biomarkers for the device to capture, including interleukin-6, interleukin-8, C-reactive protein, and procalcitonin. But there’s really no limit to how many different biomarkers the device can measure, for any disease, Wu says. Notably, more than 200 protein biomarkers for various diseases and conditions have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.</p> <p>“This is a very general platform,” Wu says. “If you want to increase the device’s physical footprint, you can scale up and design more channels to detect as many biomarkers as you want.”</p> <p>Daniel Irimia, an associate professor and deputy director of the BioMEMS Resource Center at the Center for Engineering in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, calls the biosensor “a significant technical achievement” that could help further research of IL-6’s role in sepsis and other conditions. “Several studies have estimated the correlations between interleukin-6 (IL-6) levels and sepsis. However, these studies were small because the techniques for measuring IL-6 levels are cumbersome and time-consuming. Moreover, these studies also found that IL-6 is frequently elevated in nonsepsis, noninfectious conditions. Thus, the technology … that measures IL-6 quickly and accurately could enable precisely the larger studies that are needed to clarify the clinical value of IL-6 as a biomarker,” he says.</p> <p>The work was funded by Analog Devices, Maxim Integrated, and the Novartis Institutes of Biomedical Research.</p> An MIT-invented microfluidics device could help doctors diagnose sepsis, a leading cause of death in U.S. hospitals, by automatically detecting elevated levels of a sepsis biomarker in about 25 minutes, using less than a finger prick of blood.Image: Felice FrankelResearch, Microfluidics, Design, Medicine, Disease, Health care, Microsystems Technology Laboratories, Research Laboratory of Electronics, Mechanical engineering, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science (eecs), School of Engineering