Edgerton Center

The Edgerton Center's mission is to uphold the legacy of Harold Doc Edgerton by:

The past year has been eventful, with our core programs flourishing, our service learning collaboration with the Public Service Center (PSC) coming to fruition, and a new d'Arbeloff program begun with the Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation (DAPER). Of particular note has been the success of the IDEAS competition, which encourages MIT students to work in teams to develop creative ideas that serve individuals and communities, locally, nationally, and around the world. In the past year, the center has received a generous endowment from Bert and Candee Forbes, to be used for our service learning and outreach programs. We begin with an update on the status of the service learning program and the IDEAS competition. We then review our ongoing core programs, and close with a summary of our new d'Arbeloff program with DAPER.

Service Learning

Service learning is a teaching method in which students work on curriculum-focused projects that serve the community. Its premise is that students learn more from a project when they know that their work will make a difference in the lives of others. In addition, students will better understand the ethical implications of their future professions and communities in need will be provided with valuable, unique help. Our goal is to couple service learning with the Edgerton Center's focus on hands-on education to create a range of subjects across the Institute that challenge our students to learn science or engineering while providing meaningful help to the larger community.

IDEAS Competition

The MIT IDEAS Competition (a joint project with the Public Service Center) encourages MIT students to work in teams to develop their creative ideas into products and processes that serve individuals and communities, locally, nationally, and internationally. The IDEAS Competition combines features of existing invention and business plan competitions with an emphasis on community service and community involvement. The students receive mentoring from faculty, staff, and industry professionals as they work through a needs analysis, the product development process, and team building. Along the way we provide teams with constructive criticism and materials grants, and host a poster session at the final awards ceremony. In this second year of the competition, 20 teams submitted final proposals, and eight were awarded monetary prizes to enable the teams to begin implementation of their ideas. Prizes are shown with the description:

We intend for the IDEAS Competition to become an integral part of MIT's culture, as well as spreading beyond the Institute. Presentations by Amy Smith have already encouraged projects at other colleges and universities. So far, a group has begun implementing a plan for an IDEAS competition in Appalachia, a consortium of German universities is developing an innovation competition based on IDEAS, and linkages through the Cambridge-MIT Institute have sparked interest at Cambridge University.

Curricular Initiative for Development Design

The goal of the Curricular Initiative for Development Design (CIDD) is to educate MIT students about the technical challenges faced by communities in the developing world and to provide an opportunity for them to use their engineering skills to make a positive contribution to these communities. CIDD has four components:

The program began last year with a pilot project in Haiti that was very successful; this year we are expanding the class to include India and we have recently received a small corporate grant to develop ideas for projects in Brazil. Several Brazilian students are very enthusiastic about the potential for the project. We continue to be amazed and gratified at the desire of MIT students to give back to the communities from which they have come.

Ongoing Programs


Strobe Project Lab continues to be heavily over subscribed and our other regular offerings in electronics, robotics, and digital imaging are also popular. Our staff oversaw three advanced undergraduate projects for EECS students. In total, 215 MIT students enrolled in the 31 subjects the Edgerton Center offered for credit in the 2002–2003 academic year.

Technical Imaging

The center is still the Institute's go-to place for high-speed imaging. Our high-speed video systems were used by eight research groups and five institute subjects over the past year. We have received the generous donation of a Phantom 5 high-speed video system from Vision Research, Inc., which can capture megapixel images at a rate of 1,000 images per second. In 2003 we presented our week-long summer short course (Subject 6.51s) on high-speed imaging which attracted 24 attendees from government, academia, and industry. Our darkrooms—both digital and film—are well used by students from four of our subjects and by students pursuing UROPs and other hands-on projects.


Our outreach program continues to grow, with 1,042 Cambridge students (62 groups from 4th through 8th grade classrooms) visiting the center during the 2002-2003 school year to conduct hands-on science activities. We also provide these activities to other community groups (other schools, scout groups, home school groups, etc.). For the previous academic year, activities offered to non-Cambridge groups brought in another 1,222 students, for a total of 2,264 students (K–12) performing hands-on science activities at MIT. Since its inception over seven years ago, the Edgerton Center Outreach program has provided a window into MIT for approximately 10,000 visits by children and adults from the larger community. In two new activities students conduct hands-on experiments: conducting chemical reactions in a bag; or extracting DNA from fruits and vegetables. In both cases they couple their observations with models of the molecules that they build using LegoѢ bricks.

Student Shop and Hands-on Resources for MIT students

MIT's student shop is operated by the Edgerton Center, and its manager, Fred Cote, is a member of the center's staff. The shop is located across from the Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences buildings on Vassar Street. The shop continues to provide an important resource to MIT graduate and undergraduate students. Students can receive training at the shop, and (once trained) are able to use the shop resources for independent projects.

By hiring part-time help, the shop is now open four evenings a week, and on Saturday afternoon beyond 9 am–5 pm (52 hours per week). Our two computer-controlled milling machines allow students to make much more difficult parts for projects. Approximately 7,000 student hours are logged in the shop each year. These students typical represent 16 departments and programs from the Schools of Engineering, Science, Architecture and Planning, and Heath Sciences and Technologies.

Support for Student Clubs and Teams

The Stratford Foundation has offered generous financial support to greatly expand the center's ability to support student-initiated hands-on projects. Supported projects include:

We provide centralized institutional recognition and support for these teams, some financial support (they are expected to raise a significant portion of their support from other sources), access to a pool of common tools and resources, and (most difficult of all) space to carry out their work. We have now secured permanent space for the clubs in the basement of building E60 (the old Arthur D. Little building), which the Institute has generously renovated. The clubs are moving into E60, and we expect them to continue to excel.

High-Speed Imaging for Physical Education—A d'Arbeloff Project

We have, in collaboration with DAPER, a new d'Arbeloff project to use advanced high-speed imaging techniques to create new Physical Education teaching tools and methods for new active learning opportunities for PE instructors, students, coaches and athletes, and new hands-on undergraduate research opportunities. These tools will provide: Real-time feedback to students as they learn and perform physical skills and techniques; a library of instructional imagery for in-class demonstration of physical skills and techniques; imagery for use by academic subjects (e.g., 8.01T) to demonstrate fundamental concepts in science and engineering; an imagery database for the development of courseware for PE subjects; and an engaging array of project-based learning and research opportunities for students.

The main objective of our proposal is to engage MIT undergraduates with a PE learning opportunity that is both exciting and more closely integrated into the academic mainstream. An additional objective of our proposal is to forge links between DAPER and the degree-granting departments, in particular by creating high-quality high-speed video clips of various athletic events that can be used in subjects to illustrate fundamental concepts in science and engineering. Working in concert with the Physics department, high-speed imagery generated by PE classes offers 8.01T students a rich and innovative approach to the exploration of mechanical principles.

J. Kim Vandiver
Professor of Ocean Engineering
Dean for Undergraduate Research

More information about the Edgerton Center can be found on the web at http://web.mit.edu/edgerton/main.html.

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