DesignPlus: Creating Hands-On Experiences for Students in MIT's Forge

DesignPlus at MIT is a First-Year Learning Community offering undergraduates a vibrant space for hands-on learning and exploration. In the 2023-24 academic year, a group of students focused on metal smithing in the Department of Materials Science & Engineering’s forge and foundry. Advised by Kirk Kolenbrander and under the guidance of metals artist Rhea Vedro, students crafted individual silver rings, gaining technical skills and insights into metalsmithing as a form of self expression.

May 20, 2024

DesignPlus is a learning community open to MIT first-year undergraduates. It’s a space for hands-on experimentation and exploration, acquiring technical skills, finding mentors and mutual support, and having fun. Approximately 50 students join each year to discover different facets of design, both in theory and in practice. Layla Stanton, 27', says:

Joining DesignPlus was the single best decision I made coming into MIT.

Over the 2023-24 Academic Year, DesignPlus students were split into different design “tracks,” such as materials science, building and construction, product design, international development, and more. This video is about students who engaged with metal smithing through the Department of Materials Science & Engineering (DMSE) in MIT's forge and foundry, located in The Merton C. Flemings Materials Processing Laboratory.

Advised by Kirk Kolenbrander, DMSE senior lecturer, and with the supervision of Rhea Vedro — metals artist in residence and technical instructor at DMSE — the small group of students designed and made individual silver rings. Vedro is a metalsmith creating at the intersection of arts and collective healing. Her research explores metalsmithing as a cultural signifier of values, power, and protection across belief systems and time. Trained first as a jeweler, her studio practice is primarily hollow-form steel sculpture.

It was always the highlight of my week to be able to go in this forge and learn something new,” says JD Hagood, 27'. He adds: “Going through all this, you're able to see what opportunities there exist to make, for instance, with the forge or over at other maker spaces with laser cutters, 3D printers, welders. You name it, they have it.

Thank you to all the Massachusetts Institute of Technology students, staff and faculty involved in the making of this video.


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