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  • Extreme circumstances are often the impetus for innovation. After the fall of the USSR, Cuba lost nearly 80% of its imports due to the trade embargo, leading to a surge in hacked consumer electronics and home appliances. During the Great Depression, patterns were printed on bags of flour and feed, encouraging people to repurpose the fabric for dresses or dolls. In 2017, Venezuelans protesting governmental corruption combatted tear gas attacks with respirators made of plastic water bottles. These examples show our ability to create new solutions, even when we don’t have the right tool for the job.

    In this studio, students will create devices, interventions, machines, robots and technologies that will help mitigate the fallout after a large natural disaster. These inventions will  serve responders, aid workers, local residents, governmental officials, refugee populations, the elderly, or other groups impacted by the disaster. As part of the studio, students will interview professionals working in disaster relief and humanitarian assistance, including experts from MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. As part of the constraints of working in a post-disaster context, students will examine post-disaster debri and scraps, upcycled electronics, and alternate opportunities to convert waste into resource. Following design research, students will use their creativity and resourcefulness to design, engineer and build prototypes for these life-saving devices.

    Using the power of digital design (computer aided drafting, 3D modeling) rapid prototyping tools (laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC milling), and microprocessor electronics combined with discarded materials, students will build tools, robots and other devices as part of their disaster relief interventions.


    Focus Skills/Subjects/Technologies:


       Industrial Design

         Interaction Design

       Physics (Electricity, Magnetism)




       Robotics (Arduino, Sensors, Actuators)

       Digital Fabrication (Laser-cutting, 3d Printing)

       3d Modeling


    • Enrolling students must be between the ages of 14 to 18 (or grades 9-12)


  • The Inflatable Shelter: a lightweight inexpensive shelter for displaced people that attempts to improve their quality of life by offering thermal insulation.   

    There are over 12 million Syrians forcibly displaced from their homes, and over 25 million refugees worldwide. Refugees' quality of life is often overlooked.: people do not think about what it is like to live in a refugee camp in a tent with no utilities or amenities. The Inflatable Shelter is made from Tyvek and Mylar to be inexpensive and light, and the air bladders that inflate to offer thermal insulation. The initial prototype focused on the tent material and form, and on different methods of adhering the Tyvek and Mylar together. A large portion of design time was spent on exploring different methods of adhering the Tyvek and mylar together. Future versions will integrate more features into the design to make the tent more like a modern house, including. Flexible solar panels on the tent roof to charge batteries that will power LED lights embedded into the walls of the tent.

    The two materials need to be strong enough to handle being outside all the time, the adhesive needs to be flexible so the fabric is still flexible., and the gap between the two should be as small as possible so the material can fold up to flat pack or be stuffed in a bag.

  • In a world where aliens have invaded and destroyed New York City, the iron structures of the skyscrapers are all that is left. Humans have developed this vehicle to climb up the frames and escape from the aliens whose inner magnetism render the iron structures deadly. 

    This vehicle uses magnetic treads to stick to magnetic metal surfaces. The vehicle is controlled by a remote control, which make the two motors drive the treads forwards. The 3-D printed treads are attached to a wooden frame, which holds the magnets in place. 

  • Hypothermia is a serious danger to high altitude climbers. When a patient suffering from hypothermia is brought to a hospital for medical assistance, a doctor typically begins treating the patient by setting him or her up with a heated IV. Injecting warm saline solution into the body raises the patient’s core body temperature as well as hydrates and provides the patient with nutrients. This ultimately relieves hypothermia. A large problem is that often times those suffering from hypothermia do not have immediate access to medical assistance. We wanted to create a portable heated IV for extreme climate situations and/or high altitude climbers suffering from hypothermia or dehydration. This product is not supposed to heal a person completely, it is intended to be used as a temporary aid to prolong the user’s life until they can receive medical assistance.

    The device purifies the water using a cap with built in UV lights. This "purifier" screws into a separate compartment containing ceramic resistors that heat the IV drip reservoir. After being purified and heated, the water flows through the IV tubing until it reaches the needle. The needle is intended to be clipped into the specialized cuff created. The cuff is an 3D printed semi-circle placed on a person's forearm. The cuff is designed to simplify and secure the injection of the IV needle into the person's vein. The other compartments of the cannister hold other necessary components including the salt tablet/packet, a vein finder (Infrared light device), etc.

    The importance of the product is clear--it could be the defying factor of a high altitude climber's survival. Without the Portable Warm IV, a person could possibly die of hypothermia on the mountain but with the IV, the chance of his or her core body temperature warming enough to prolong the survival long enough to receive medical assistance is likely. There are no existing products that are capable of helping high altitude mountaineers let alone in extreme conditions return their body to a normal temperature. Since hypothermia is such a serious threat to the lives of mountaineers, it is crucial to have a device that would keep them alive at high altitudes and dangerously cold temperatures. The portable warm IV would bring the user fundamental and pragmatic medical attention immediately, making it a life-changing product... Literally.


    The Sonicycle studio was given the task to create a bike that was a musical instrument that also looked cool and had the ability to turn on and off the sound.

    Our group created a bike that when rode makes noises because of the number of instruments, but can also make music when it is stationary. A big part of our process was using our new skill welding to attach the instruments to our bike.

    Our bike has a variety of instruments such as a drum, a thumb piano, wind chimes, spoke sliders and a wheel clacker. This allows the rider to enjoy music while riding and make music when they come to a stop.

    We began the project by researching how instruments are made and how to make your own, then we looked at how people had combined instruments with bikes to make music. We spent about a week working on our own instrument and creating new ones. Our group then broke off into four groups to focus on their individual instruments to attach to the bike. While we were working on our instruments we also did lots of practice welding.

    Our bike is made up of many parts because of the various types of instruments. The drum is a gear with a plastic circle screwed to it that also has a hand-brake that doubles as a mallet to hit the drum and make the sound. We have the wind chimes that are attached at the top tube and when the bike is ridden the hit each other making sound. The spokes sliders move up and down the spokes when the wheels turn making sounds, but also make really cool designs because of the centrifugal force. The thumb piano is welded to the handlebars and has a bar the stretches across the wooden box. The bar holds up levers with screw on the end and when you press them, they hit the keys, resulting in different notes from a scale being made. Last is the wheel whacker which is a piece with bike chains at the end. This is connected to a bike rack that has the ability to be raised or lowered resulting in the wheel being whacked and sound being made.

    Each of us broke off to work on instruments that had already been prototyped or others had created and we improved them. We originally began with the idea of only being a percussion bike, but then we went off of that idea and ended up with instruments like the thumb piano. As a group we also spent lots of time on finding ways to make the whole bike an art piece and not just the music that was coming out of it. We focused on using pieces of the bike for completely different purposes and making it unique.

    One of the main challenges that we faced as a group was working as a group. Because we were working on very different projects, it was very easy to go a couple days without communicating with everyone else. This became a really big probably though by the end of the project because people were wanting to put their instruments in the same place or projects not getting done because people didn’t know what others were doing.

    Iterations :


    Iteration (Wind Chimes) :
    We began the process of making the wind chimes with the idea of having actual wind chimes and attaching them to the top tube. While working with the different bike pieces we realized that the gears made a pretty sound when they collided and we decided to make the gears into the wind chimes. After coming up with the placement and the order of the “wind chimes” we spray painted them silver and pink. Last, I hung up the wind chimes attaching them with zip ties and strung them through the zip tie with a wire.

    Iteration (Spoke Sliders) :
    Initially, I came up with the idea to attach bells to the spokes of the bike so that when the rider pedaled the bells would make noise, but after talking to my group we thought it wouldn’t work as well as I planned and we didn’t have any ideas on how to attach the bells to the spokes so that they could still make noise. We ended making the spoke sliders which are these little 3D printed pieces that snap onto the spokes. They’re really cool because when you pedal, they slide around and make noise, but if you pedal fast enough, you can’t hear them anymore because of the centrifugal force.

    Iteration (Drum) :
    Calder came up with the idea to create an instrument that was similar to a kick drum where you didn’t need to manually hit the drum. He first started out making a drum out of popsicle sticks and a mallet that was made out of a ping pong ball and wire. After, he found a brake gear and decided to base his project around that. He laser printed a drum piece that would keep the drum head  in place and refined the design of the drum head and attached more pieces such as the bracket. Later on in the project he focused on finding a solution to turning on and off his bike by adding a lever and cutting in have a nut and attaching it to the top tube of the bike.. Calder finished off his process of welding his drum to the front of our bike.

    Iteration (Wheel Clacker) :
    Stefano’s idea for the wheel clacker came from the card in the spokes sound concept, and combined that with the idea to create sound from the energy of moving the wheel. From taking apart the bike wheel he found that a bicycle hub could double as a bearing with many mounting opportunities. After experimenting with different ways to mount the hub he found that the luggage mount was the most effective. After mounting the hub and fixing chains to it, he worked on a way to turn the instrument on and off. He took a shifter off an old bike and used the cabling for it to lower the luggage rack, carrying the hub to make contact with the wheel resulting the hub spinning and making sound.

    Iteration (Thumb piano):
    There were many steps that I took and models that I made to complete my final project.  The first thing I did was making a cardboard model. In my cardboard model, I made a bike rack, a plate, and put tines on top of that. I had not made any drawings or planned anything out, so my finished product turned out a lot different than that prototype.  The next thing I did was making some drawings and start working on rhino.  On rhino, I designed keys and a box.  When I laser cut them, they were the wrong scale and the wrong shape.  The scale that I had made was a major scale, but it only had six notes so they sounded wrong.  I went back on rhino and fixed this problem by redesigning the keys to make a six note pentatonic scale.  I printed that and the new top out, and fit it to the rest of the box.  After that, I read about the materials I could use to make my bars.  Every website said that bars like these have to be made out of aluminum.  The aluminum bars arrived and I cut the tines out of those.  When those were finished and the holes were drilled into them, I had to figure out a way to mount them.  I settled on putting a nail through the hole and then putting a nut and felt on top of that.  After I slid the keys on, I put a lock nut onto the top to make sure that the tines could not slide off.  The last step was attaching it to the bike.  I welded a steel bar onto the handlebars and then screwed the box into it.  I added zip ties to fasten it more.