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MIT maker event showcases combat robots and devices designed to curb sexual assault


A maker festival is not just an opportunity to showcase products and homespun inventions; it’s also a chance to sharpen creativity for business leaders, said Connie Yee, MBA ’18, managing director of MITxMake, the first MIT-branded maker festival planned for April 16 at the Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center. The event will highlight project debuts, such as wearables and on-body sensors designed to help prevent sexual assault, and will also feature makerspace tours and workshops, as well as a combat robot tournament.

MIT’s culture, with its motto mens et manus, or “mind and hand,” is steeped in making, but there’s been an outgrowth in design and development from a business perspective, said Yee. Maker culture embodies engineering and technology pursuits such as 3-D printing, robotics, and electronics.

Accounting, finance, and economics are still the fundamental pillars in business, but there’s also product creation, which can be a “huge part of starting a company,” Yee said.

“The type of skills you can get from building something lend [themselves] to a different way of thinking,” she said. “It’s something you don’t get from just reading textbooks.”

Builder mentality.  “You walk into a maker festival, maybe you don’t see ‘problem solving’ on a sign, but if you talk to the makers and see where they got their ideas from and how they hacked their way into a solution you can see how out of the box they have had to think in order to get to their final product or solution, and I think that’s a set of skills that’s highly applicable in any business situation,” Yee said.

Nilanjana Bhattacharyya, MBA ’17, who is the festival’s operations director said, “The idea of business education is changing. We no longer graduate thinking that we’ll be going into a leadership development program at a large corporation. Today, we are focusing on recruiting and startups and on creating companies. The spirit of entrepreneurship is so strong at Sloan, and [maker culture] very naturally intersects with that.”

If you go:

Take a tour.  See a couple of MIT’s famous community makerspaces, such as Makerworks and D-Lab.

Listen to keynote speaker Jeff Lieberman.  Lieberman, who has four degrees from MIT, was the host of Discovery Channel’s “Time Warp,” which used a high-speed camera to examine everyday objects and actions.

Check out combat robots.  The MIT Electronics Research Society will run workshops on building mini combat robots. During the day, robots will battle one another in a tournament.

Join a workshop.  Build a concrete planter or play with electronic blocks in workshops that will stress design-thinking principles. 

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