MITdesignX and Project Manus Collaborate to Empower Student Innovation

The two entities, now part of the MIT Morningside Academy for Design (MIT MAD), developed a collaboration focusing on accessible prototyping and the systematic documentation of design processes. This safe and supportive environment not only catalyzes innovation, but empowers students and transforms learning through experimentation.

By Adelaide Zollinger

Sep 11, 2023

MITdesignX and Project Manus have joined forces in a collaborative effort within the MIT Morningside Academy for Design (MAD) to empower students and catalyze innovation through accessible prototyping.

MITdesignX is an academic program dedicated to design innovation and entrepreneurship. It enables students, faculty and researchers to build new business ventures and forward-thinking solutions to address critical challenges facing the future of cities and the human environment. Recent examples include solutions for farmers and consumers to enhance food safety in Kenya, mobile lodging solutions for city-scale events, a platform democratizing access to architectural and engineering services in Latin America, and custom footwear for toddlers. Designing such solutions involves prototyping, an important part of testing one’s concept, which allows iteration and market readiness. However, prototyping can require technical skills and seem intimidating.

Project Manus celebrates and enables making at MIT, fostering student maker communities across the Institute. It operates two makerspaces at MIT: The Deep, and Metropolis, where among other things, staff and student mentors provide technical training to MIT community members.

MITdesignX fosters creative hands-on learning environments for innovators and makers to experiment and test solutions and ideas. Prototyping is an effective way to do that quickly and effectively, allowing for testing and multiple design iterations. This, in turn, enhances the likelihood of a successful solution launch. The partnership with Project Manus aims to equip MITdesignX student teams with valuable skills in prototyping and systematic documentation of their design processes, decision-making, and solution testing. The collaboration offers a range of resources and support to enhance student learning and collaboration. Classroom presentations by seasoned designers such as Tony Hu and Oliver Thomas focus on both physical and digital prototyping, while tours of the Metropolis makerspace serve as a valuable resource to establish a connection with making, and to explore different prototyping approaches. Opt-in mentoring sessions provide guidance and advice to MITdesignX teams, while regular check-ins ensure effective communication and collaboration throughout the project duration.

MITdesignX 2023 cohort on Pitch and Demo Day.

While encouraging MITdesignX student teams to prototype their solutions, the collaboration creates a safe and supportive environment for experimentation and innovation. Prototyping skills play a critical role in achieving a strong problem-solution fit and increasing the likelihood of successful innovation outcomes. Furthermore, documenting the design and testing process through portfolios allows students to reflect on their experiences, learn from their mistakes, continually improve, and effectively showcase their work.

The alliance between MITdesignX and Project Manus is a great illustration of experiments taking place within MAD, mobilizing its resources and allowing collaborations with a design-focused approach. The cross-disciplinary nature of MITdesignX student teams, with their diverse backgrounds and skillsets, contributes to a rich and vibrant prototyping ecosystem, supported by Project Manus’ technical knowledge. This collaborative effort has the potential to shape and enhance the portfolio of resources and services offered by MAD, attracting talented designers and makers to join MIT’s future cohorts.

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