10 education projects earn d'Arbeloff grants


The d'Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education has awarded approximately $900,000 in grants to fund 10 proposals for innovation in education at MIT.

Established through a $10 million grant from Brit (S.M. '61) and Alex d'Arbeloff '49, the d'Arbeloff Fund backs projects to enhance and potentially transform the academic and residential experience of MIT's undergraduate students. The dean for undergraduate education chairs the d'Arbeloff Grants Committee.

With the call for preliminary proposals in June 2005, the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons signaled its desire "to stimulate the development of concrete educational experiments that can serve as models for future subject offerings in three target areas: project-based experiences; the first-year HASS experience; and broadening the science and engineering fundamentals."

The following proposals have been funded for the upcoming academic year:

FINDING AND EVALUATING INFORMATION
Professor Donald Sadoway, Materials Science and Engineering
Steve Gass and Angie Locknar, MIT Libraries

This project is designed to introduce first-year students to the scientific research process and provide them with the skills necessary to find, evaluate and use information successfully throughout their educational careers. Staff in the MIT Libraries will be working with Sadoway to develop online modules that 3.091 students will be able to refer to throughout the semester.

EXPLORE SPACE, SEA AND EARTH
FUNDAMENTALS OF ENGINEERING DESIGN
Professor Dava Newman, Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor Alexander Slocum, Mechanical Engineering
Professor Edward Crawley, Aeronautics and Astronautics

These two pilot subjects will expose first-year students to design, engineering reasoning and problem solving, as well as systems thinking, teamwork and leadership development. The theme of the "Explore" pilot is human exploration -- past, present and future. Students in the "Fundamentals" course will learn engineering fundamentals and methods of synthesis via a robotics competition.

PHYSICS OF ENERGY
Professor James Kirtley, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Professor Steven Leeb, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Professor Leslie Norford, Architecture

This fall 2006 class will teach first-year students the basics of energy and power, exposing them to energy conversion and "energy related processes." The seminar will be centered on an overarching term-length project involving the construction of a robot.

SOLVING REAL PROBLEMS USING SYSTEMS THINKING AND DESIGN
Dr. Sumi Ariely, MIT Public Service Center
Professor Dan Frey, Engineering Systems Division and Mechanical Engineering
Professor Paul Lagace, Engineering Systems and Aeronautics and Astronautics
Professor Chris Magee, Engineering Systems and Mechanical Engineering
Camilla Shannon, MIT Public Service Center
Amy Smith, Edgerton Center and Mechanical Engineering
Dean Sally Susnowitz, MIT Public Service Center
Professor Joseph Sussman, Engineering Systems Division and Civil and Environmental Engineering
Professor David Wallace, Engineering Systems Division and Mechanical Engineering

In a collaborative effort, the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Engineering Systems Division and the MIT Public Service Center will develop a new subject for spring 2007 that will combine instruction in systems thinking and design skills with service-oriented hands-on projects to build appreciation for the broader roles of engineering in society.

ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT AND SOCIETY: AN INTERDISCIPLINARY, PROJECT-BASED PROGRAM FOR FIRST-YEAR STUDENTS
Professor Jeffrey Steinfeld, Chemistry
Professor Jefferson Tester, Chemical Engineering

As part of a linked set of curricular activities on "Energy, Environment and Society" for first-year students, a nine-unit community project-based subject will be offered in spring 2007. In this class, students will explore energy issues and community dynamics at the local level -- on the MIT campus and in the cities of Cambridge and Boston.

FRESHMAN PROJECTS IN MICROSCALE ENGINEERING FOR THE LIFE SCIENCES
Professor Dennis Freeman, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
Professor Martha Gray, Health, Sciences and Technology; and Electrical Engineering

This freshman project laboratory, to be piloted this fall, will use hands-on projects to demonstrate how microscale engineering can be applied to life sciences problems.

CITYSCOPE
Professor Diane Davis, Architecture and Urban Studies and Planning

This subject, to be offered in spring 2007, is designed to "expose first-year students to the complex system dynamics of cities 'at risk' and to encourage them to use physical design, social policy, engineering, technology or other social and science innovations to assess and solve problems in urban environments." A pre-session trip to New Orleans during the Independent Activities Period (IAP) is included in the plans for this subject.

CREATION AND SCIENCE: LEARNING FROM THE PAST
Professor Diana Henderson, Literature
Professor Jeff Ravel, History
Professor Janet Sonenberg, Theater Arts

This first-year pilot HASS subject will focus on Western Europe in the 17th century -- "when modern scientific and social attitudes were just beginning." This team-taught subject will demonstrate "the variety of approaches to knowledge allowed by the humanities and arts disciplines."

HOW TO STAGE A REVOLUTION
Professor Meg Jacobs, History
Professor Pauline Maier, History
Professor Peter Perdue, History
Professor Elizabeth Wood, History
Professor Jeff Ravel, History

In a subject being developed for fall 2007, first-year students will "explore moments of major social and political transformation throughout the world and over time." Through intense engagement with primary sources, students will develop the analytical skills essential for success in studying history.

THE ART OF THE PROBABLE: LITERATURE AND PROBABILITY
Professor Alvin Kibel, Literature
Professor Noel Jackson, Literature
Professor Shankar Raman, Literature

This subject for first-year students, to be offered in spring 2007, will explore the relationship of literature with the history of probability. As the authors write in their proposal, "We wish students to think deeply about the broader conditions underlying the science and technology they study."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on February 15, 2006 (download PDF).


Topics: Awards, honors and fellowships, Education, teaching, academics, Faculty

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