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Robert Shin honored for advancing project-based learning at MIT

The 2014 Irwin Sizer Award recognizes Shin’s leadership in establishing Beaver Works
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Bob Shin (at left), director of the Beaver Works Center, was honored with the 2014 Irwin Sizer Award for his efforts in opening this modern facility that has become integral to collaborative project-based learning at MIT.
Bob Shin (at left), director of the Beaver Works Center, was honored with the 2014 Irwin Sizer Award for his efforts in opening this modern facility that has become integral to collaborative project-based learning at MIT.

Robert T-I. Shin, head of Lincoln Laboratory’s Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Tactical Systems Division, and director of the new Beaver Works Center, received the 2014 Irwin Sizer Award at the MIT Awards Convocation held on May 8. The award, presented annually by MIT’s Graduate Student Council, recognizes an individual or group for their “significant innovations and improvements to MIT education.”

Shin was honored for his vision and sustained effort in developing the Beaver Works model of project-centric educational collaborations between MIT campus and the Lincoln Laboratory.

“Bob Shin led the original study to define the Beaver Works concept, and he did an outstanding job. His creative approach and significant persistence were major factors in making Beaver Works a reality,” says Eric D. Evans, the director of Lincoln Laboratory. “I think that the strong collaboration among MIT faculty, students and Lincoln Laboratory will generate remarkable results.”

Beaver Works has already sparked some innovative work, as MIT students and faculty have worked with Lincoln Laboratory engineers to design and build prototypes that solve real-world engineering challenges. Prior to the November 2013 opening of the Beaver Works Center, faculty and students from the aeronautics and astronautics and mechanical engineering departments had collaborated with Lincoln Laboratory engineers on a number of capstone projects, such as developing an unmanned aerial vehicle and fabricating a power supply for an autonomous undersea vehicle.

Just off the MIT campus, the Beaver Works Center, a joint venture between the School of Engineering and Lincoln Laboratory, provides spaces for a range of activities, including brainstorming sessions, classroom-type instruction, and hands-on prototyping. The facility was designed to support the Beaver Works philosophy that student engagement in collaborative, real-world-inspired projects promotes the understanding of complex engineering problems and fosters innovation.

"Bob has been a dedicated and energetic advocate for Beaver Works since its inception, and I’m delighted to see his efforts acknowledged with this award,” says Ian A. Waitz, dean of the School of Engineering and the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “His efforts have greatly expanded the collaborations between the Lincoln Laboratory and the MIT campus. He helped connect us at our strongest points — MIT’s students, and Lincoln Laboratory’s engineers — to create authentic, project-based learning opportunities for our students. In addition to being great educational opportunities, these interactions are providing creative solutions to significant engineering challenges.”

According to Shin, the development of Beaver Works’ educational initiatives and the center was, and continues to be, accomplished through teamwork.

“I am honored to receive this award and must share the success of Beaver Works with the many people who helped realize the vision of a center dedicated to project-based learning and collaboration,” Shin says. “Early on, Prof. John Hansman of the Aero/Astro Department and Kevin Cohen and Sam Stambler of the Laboratory were instrumental in initiating the capstone project that has evolved into a dynamic ongoing collaboration in developing unmanned aerial vehicles. Prof. Doug Hart’s Engineering Systems Development courses within the Mechanical Engineering Department represent another very successful set of capstone projects. These courses, directed with Nick Pulsone of Lincoln Laboratory’s Advanced Sensor Techniques Group, continue to build upon the power system for autonomous undersea vehicles that was designed by the 2012 class. And, Beaver Works would not exist without the support of the leadership of MIT and Lincoln Laboratory, particularly Dean Waitz and Director Evans. So many faculty and staff were involved in both the educational activities and the renovation of the new site that I cannot name them all, but I do thank and appreciate everyone who worked on and is working with Beaver Works, and look forward to many more innovative projects coming from Beaver Works.”

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