• Singapore University of Technology and Design assistant professors Jason Gu, Sun Jun and Chau Yuen built wooden cube puzzles in an introduction to the MIT Hobby Shop. MIT announced a new collaborative effort with SUTD in January.

    Photo: John Yong

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  • Yuen and fellow SUTD Assistant Professor Foong Shaohui worked through a puzzle they constructed. Sure enough, like the SUTD faculty, the pieces came together as a cohesive unit.

    Photo: John Yong

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  • As part of MIT’s “Teach the Teachers” program, Hobby Shop Director Ken Stone instructed Jun on the finer points of computer-aided design.

    Photo: John Yong

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  • Mike Tarkanian, technical instructor for MIT’s department of materials science and engineering, demonstrated the power of a laser cutter for Shauhui and Jun. The laser cutter, the SUTD faculty learned, produces a fire-polished edge, as opposed to a less precise water jet.

    Photo: John Yong

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  • Shaohui used his opportunity in the MIT Hobby Shop to design and construct a portable box that carries a water filtration system.

    Photo: John Yong

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  • Shaohui shows off his portable water filtration system with fellow SUTD Assistant Professor Jean Yong. Yong plans to bring the system to Indonesia where individual households will use it to filter bacteria and other contaminants from their drinking water.

    Photo: John Yong

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  • Stone taught Shaohui to use computer software and a water jet to carve “SUTD” into a metal sheet.

    Photo: John Yong

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  • SUTD assistant professors Chen Lujie (left) and Shaohui (right) absorb Stone’s extensive knowledge.

    Photo: John Yong

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  • Stone, second from right, welcomed the SUTD faculty into his home after a productive day in the Hobby Shop.

    Photo: John Yong

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Building hands-on instructors

Hobby Shop makes MIT’s manus tangible for visiting Singapore professors.


In January, MIT formally signed a collaboration agreement with the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), and as part of the agreement, seven SUTD instructors from various departments recently commanded laser cutters, water jets and other advanced wood- and metalworking equipment in the MIT Hobby Shop to develop building skills, teamwork and an appreciation for a cornerstone of MIT culture.

MIT Hobby Shop Director Ken Stone ’72 guided the SUTD group as part of the “Teach the Teachers” program, in which members of the MIT community instruct SUTD faculty on the building blocks that shape MIT culture. Since January, the visiting instructors have absorbed dozens of MIT educational and cultural experiences that they hope to incorporate into their own teaching at SUTD. Some of the visiting professors nicknamed the process “the drinking of MIT’s DNA.”

Through imbibing MIT culture at the Hobby Shop, the visitors were reminded of the importance of cross-disciplinary collaboration. “It was great to see these colleagues from different fields working together,” Stone said. “It was interesting to watch how instructors with deep knowledge of their own subject areas collaborated when they were thrown together in a project that was nobody’s area of expertise.”

The visitors quickly discovered that their strengths fit together like the wooden puzzles that Stone helped them construct. They called upon their new sense of camaraderie to direct computer software and a water jet to carve “SUTD” into metal sheets.

SUTD Assistant Professor Foong Shaohui designed a collapsible box to contain a water-filtration system, which turned out to be a useful and timely project. Stone guided Foong and Yong as they built a wood prototype and then a plastic demonstration model that holds stackable drip filtration devices. SUTD Assistant Associate Professor Jean Yong plans to bring the box to Indonesia where individual households can implement the system to filter bacteria and other contaminants such as arsenic from their drinking water.

At the conclusion of their Hobby Shop experience, the SUTD instructors raved about the power of collaboration and building from scratch. “My time with Ken reminded me that I need to continue to be a ‘hands-on’ professor," said one participant.

“Much of MIT’s success lies in its model of combining hand and mind,” Stone said. “The Hobby Shop is a non-departmental shop, open to all MIT students, where students actually make things. Bringing idea to reality is quintessential MIT.”

To learn more about the Hobby Shop, visit the Hobby Shop website.


Topics: Education, teaching, academics, Faculty, Hobby Shop, Global, Singapore, Staff, Students

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