Last February, a crowd of more than 500 MIT students packed into Next House for the first party there in seven years. Partygoers descended upon Next in droves for more than just a standard weekend serving of tune bumping and fist pumping; the soiree celebrated the release of an intricate party lighting system that combines computer algorithms and human creativity into an immersive visual experience.
The party lighting system was one of many major projects constructed by Next Make, a student group based out of Next House composed mostly of undergraduates studying mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science. Today, under the leadership of Next Make President Marcel Thomas ’12, the group continues to develop as an innovative out-of-classroom learning experience for dozens of students.
“We basically just get together and build cool stuff,” Thomas, a senior, says about Next Make. The group has regular “build parties” in which members work on their own individual projects or collaborate on the large project, such as last year’s party lighting system.
As part of Campus Preview Weekend, Next Make will invite admitted students, or “prefrosh,” to a build party on Friday, April 20, from 2-4 p.m. in Next House. Next Make veterans will provide soldering tutorials and the prefrosh will have the opportunity to build something to take home.
The heart of Next Make is members’ willingness to help out their fellow builders. Experienced participants often give seminars on topics such as using the laser cutter, soldering and programming. Informal instruction between members is common as well.
“The thing that is great about these students is that they’re excited to teach their classmates about their passion,” says Ken Stone, director of the Hobby Shop, the non-departmental shop where Next Make builds. “It certainly helps me a lot. One-on-one instruction is important in projects like this, but it gets to be incredibly time consuming.”
Peer-to-peer shop instruction is popular in other living groups on campus as well. Last semester, students in Maseeh Hall began Maseeh Create Club, which takes on similar projects.
Because it is based out of a single dorm, Next Make is considered an “interest group” by MIT. While the group is open to students all across campus, Next Make is relatively small so it does not have a broad enough appeal to apply for funding from the Association of Student Activities. However, the executive board in Next House has focused on supporting a number of interest groups, according to former Next House President Alec Lai.
“We want to provide as many services and opportunities for students to explore their interests outside of the classroom,” says Lai, a junior. “These types of opportunities that students have in college can help them figure out what they want to do later in life.”
“The students organized this themselves, and it’s a wonderful collaboration for our community,” says Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo, who also serves as housemaster for Next House. “Their passion for sharing their knowledge and skills is just remarkable.”
For more information, visit Next Make’s website.