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Advancing manufacturing innovation on campus and online

The White House highlights MIT’s latest efforts as part of National Manufacturing Day.
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U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and MIT President L. Rafael Reif discuss innovation and entrepreneurship at an event hosted by the MIT Innovation Initiative.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and MIT President L. Rafael Reif discuss innovation and entrepreneurship at an event hosted by the MIT Innovation Initiative.
Photo: Justin Knight

MIT researchers and educators have been living up to the university motto of "mens et manus," mind and hand, with a rapidly expanding effort on advanced manufacturing innovation. Several of MIT’s latest efforts in manufacturing research, education, workforce training, and policy are highlighted as part of National Manufacturing Day, which this year is Friday, Oct. 7.

The White House noted MIT’s new “maker training” for the Class of 2020, spearheaded by Martin Culpepper, professor of mechanical engineering and MIT’s “Maker Czar,” and providing 1,100 freshmen the opportunity to learn about and access advanced methods of fabrication and join 10 unique student maker communities. This national spotlight also highlighted a new MITx course, 2.008x (Fundamentals of Manufacturing Processes), designed by John Hart, professor of mechanical engineering, as the first manufacturing-oriented massive open online course (MOOC) of its kind. Additionally, an upcoming public seminar on Shaping the Future of Work, offered by MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Tom Kochan, was promoted as a public venue to discuss how training, policy, and workplace design can promote rewarding careers in manufacturing for skilled workers at all stages.

“Beyond these exciting new launches that were highlighted at the national level, MIT offers several other events and activities throughout the month of October, designated within the state of Massachusetts as Manufacturing Month, and the fall. All events are designed to provide the MIT community and the public at large with a greater understanding of the opportunities to not just ‘invent it here’ but also ‘make it here’ to speed innovation and training,” explains Krystyn Van Vliet, director of manufacturing innovation in MIT’s Innovation Initiative and professor of materials science and engineering and biological engineering. These events include the first International Symposium on Academic Makerspaces in November, as part of MIT Project Manus’ collaboration with other universities to integrate this precursor to manufacturing into undergraduate training.

Additionally, MIT is part of Manufacturing USA, which includes several Manufacturing Innovation Institutes. Each institute is a public-private partnership including many companies, universities, colleges, and nonprofit organizations that work with state and federal government agencies to advance manufacturing technology and training efforts in a specific manufacturing area. “These institutes prototype new technologies designed to manufacture a range of products at commercial scale, and can enable production of entirely new products because of those new manufacturing capabilities and workforce skills,” notes Van Vliet. Lightweighting Innovations for the Future (LIFT) Institute will hold a public seminar at MIT on Manufacturing Day, led by Randy Kirchain and Elsa Olivetti, professor of materials science and engineering. AIM Photonics, the institute focused on manufacturing photonic devices for communications and sensors, will hold the first MA-AIM Manufacturing Summit on Nov. 2 at MIT. This event will convene companies in Massachusetts that are the foundation of the electronics and integrated photonics supply chain and workforce, and discuss the role of the AIM Photonics Academy’s pilot laboratory-factory at MIT that is supported in part by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ investment in advanced manufacturing.

This year’s many activities that showcase the Institute's contributions to making, manufacturing, and educating build on MIT’s analysis of Production in the Innovation Economy, a multi-year study that analyzed how innovations move to market, and the U.S. Advanced Manufacturing Partnership that considered how public-private partnerships could accelerate that effort nationally. Van Vliet remarks, “Manufacturing Day is an annual reminder of a constant reality in Cambridge and Massachusetts: New manufacturing technologies and careers enable us to better translate our ideas to real products that positively impact our world, and the opportunities are growing daily.”

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