In the spring semester, your Terrascope experience expands to include hands-on original research and design work done under the guidance of MIT faculty members. For the first part of the semester, you and a small team of Terrascope classmates will engage in projects that address or illuminate some aspect of the problem you have been studying throughout your Terrascope year. Much of your work may be done in the lab, shop or research area of the faculty member advising your project; faculty advisors are drawn from departments throughout the Institute, as appropriate to the year’s Terrascope problem. As in all of Terrascope, the focus is on working in teams to accomplish challenging tasks, and you and your teammates may have great freedom to determine the scope, emphasis and content of your work.
At the end of the semester, the teams join together in a large, public space to create a unique Bazaar of Ideas, a festive gathering in which you can show off the work you have done, both to the MIT community at large and to an expert panel invited specifically for the event. Individual teams design and construct working devices, prototypes, models or demonstrations, which they use (along with more conventional text/graphic panels and other displays) in presenting their work to attendees. The class as a whole constructs a physical setting and layout for the space, designed both to attract and inform visitors and to provide the best possible intellectual backdrop for the work they are presenting. Along the way, you will learn crucial techniques in brainstorming, design development, prototyping, construction and presentation.
This year’s projects:
- Developing techniques for using a variety of bacteriophage (a type of virus) to extract the rare-earth element indium from very dilute solutions. Advisors: Professor Angela Belcher, Department of Materials Science and Engineering; Professor Eric Alm, Department of Biological Engineering; Miling Li, Harvard School of Public Health.
- Using vermiculture (the cultivation of worms) to extract phosphorus from algae, with the ultimate goal of creating a way to recycle phosphorus from agricultural runoff and make it suitable for re-use as fertilizer. Advisor: Gwyn Jones, D-Lab.
- Creating a multiplayer game that teaches players first-hand about the tradeoffs inherent in the extraction and use of rare-earth elements. Advisor: Philip Tan, MIT Game Lab.
Terrascope, 12.000, 1.016 and Terrascope Radio have an impact beyond the MIT students they serve. Of course there is the students’ work, which enters the national and global discussion of the issues at hand. In addition, though, Terrascope serves as a model of a project-based, team-oriented learning community. We conduct detailed assessment of the program every year, and from that we gain new knowledge about what makes this kind of learning environment most effective. Here is a list of our publications in this rapidly-growing area of educational research.