mit mites summer 2017

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Co-instructors Paul Pettigrew & Jongwan Kwan, teaching assistants Chheangkea Long (CK) & Lisbeth Acevedo Ogando, & 16 mites (Minority Introduction to Engineering & Science) summer camp students.

binary body device

“I started to begin to be interested in architecture and design when I was 14 years old, which was pretty early in life. And then I would start to look at architectural magazines and I eventually went to the school of architecture too, but one of the things I learned very early is that an architect should be able to design anything from a spoon to the city.” Massimo Vignelli

Once upon a time, high schools were the “farm system” of Architectural education’s “big leagues”. Drafting and Architecture courses were common options in high school curriculum and often the first and only exposure high school students had to Architecture as a possible college major or career. Today, unfortunately, there is no A(rchitecture) in S.T.E.M.

MITES or Minority Introduction To Engineering and Science is a fully funded rigorous six-week residential academic enrichment program for rising high school seniors with strong academics, from underrepresented or underserved communities, interested in exploring careers in science, engineering & Architecture. 

This past summer 16 MITES students designed and fabricated "Binary Body Devices" during a 4-week Architecture elective course. None of our 16 students had ever designed anything, few had ever drawn anything, none had ever made anything, and only 1 student specifically requested to be in our Architecture elective.

Upon discovering that our 16 students were reluctant Architecture participants, we opted for a design problem that played off the summer camp’s theme “Asking the Bold Questions of Tomorrow” reframed as “Designing the Bold Questions of Tomorrow”.


Students began with the observation that the human body experiencing architectural space is seldom about the “naked” body. The body in architectural space is the diversity of bodies and devices humans make or have made and worn throughout history, throughout the seasons and throughout the day.
The history of enhancing the human body is simultaneously the history of the materials, techniques and technologies used to fabricate the enhancements that humans have invented, perfected and pursued throughout history, climate, culture, conflict, competition and fashion.

14 classes of 2 hours each over 4 weeks required an abridged introductory Architectural curriculum. Precedent studies, concept development, analytical sketching, hand drawing, hand modeling, material investigations, full scale prototyping, iteration, & final presentations were condensed in an effort to give our 16 high schoolers a realistic Architecture school studio experience, an introduction to the design process, and get them excited about Architecture & design.

Students analyzed the diversity of physical characteristics and movements of human bodies. Student analyses were used to propose, design and fabricate personal wearable devices as an interface between the user and their spatial environment. Design and fabrication were treated as prototypes that asked a bold question, tested a variety of concepts, materials, and fabrication techniques. Binary Body Device was simultaneously a study of the human body in space, design concepts and the materials, techniques and technologies we use as Designers to bring together concept, form, function and beauty.


Students began by researching binary devices & body devices. Students moved quickly from research to initial concepts and concept sketches. Concept statements & concept sketches were turned into study models, full scale mock-ups and full scale binary mechanism details. Students were encouraged to move back and forth between sketches, models, material studies, mock-ups and mechanisms.
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final student projects & descriptions

sleep cocoon

The binary conditions I’m exploring in my project are asleep versus awake. I designed a collapsible shroud, to fit the human head, that functions as a “sleep cocoon”. When the user puts their head within the device, they are encouraged to interact with their cocoon expanding and contracting the cover around their head. The dark and quiet inside the shroud represents and encourages sleep. When the binary device is collapsed, its open condition represents and encourages the state of being awake. At its core is a pair of headphones which allow the wearer to use the headphone’s noise suppression abilities as an additional level of isolation or incorporate music, aiding either the wearer’s asleep or awake state.

Abdalla Badri
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counterweight device

My binary body device, explores the concepts of heavy and light. My counterweight system is designed to make it easier for a person to hold up heavy objects for longer periods of time without tiring. By distributing the object’s weight to the user’s shoulders and back, and away from the arms, heavy objects are no longer primarily dependent on the body’s ability to resist arm fatigue. For instance, if I were writing on a chalkboard or holding a heavy object aloft, and expected to continue doing so for a long time, I could use the counterweight device to match the weight of my arm and holding the chalk or heavier objects becomes almost effortless.

Mason Bishop
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eps (expanding personal space)

This is a personal space device built for those who “need their space” in our overcrowded world and, perhaps more importantly, because there are those who don’t understand that. The EPS device combines an interest in nature inspired defense mechanisms and the duality of connectivity and isolation. My binary is open and closed demonstrated as my device changes function depending on whether my arm is open or closed. My device also provides the user with the ability to establish open/closed personalities whenever they wish. My design was an exploration of one’s need to indicate their level of security and their need for space.

Davide Bruno
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soul scroll

The binary condition explored in the Soul Scroll is past and present. Although it may not look like it, this device, which I coined the Soul Scroll, holds a collection of memories precious to the holder. The body controlling this device has the ability to reveal a person’s unique timeline. It may be art, photos, drawings, poems, anything that holds purpose, pleasure, passion and/or privacy. As such, the cranking motion does not just simply unroll some paper, rather it forms an intimate relationship with the body controlling the device. I have placed art from the beginning of human history to the present that I selected as characteristic of my personal artistic taste. Another person‘s Soul Scroll content would be a different collection of art, describing their unique character, personality artistic values. This simple scroll truly does unveil the soul.

Raul Campos
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the expanding garden

My project is a collection of “herb(an) condominiums” capable of expanding into sun lit terraces and contracting when natural light is no longer available. The purpose is to promote herb(an) gardens in homes short on space but long on spice. The expanding garden is comprised of eight terraces with four on each side to counter balance the weight of the cantilevered condos in their open position. To make the expanding and contracting binary possible, I used a scissor lift system hidden inside the condominiums so as not to be visible from the outside. The laser cut pattern of openings promotes air circulation in both the garden’s open and closed binary conditions.

Miguel Ceja
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One’s childhood becomes lost forever after the age of 12. We used to engage with our toys, but now we press buttons that do everything for us. The 9.8 interacts with you as you interact with it. Gravity shares your work load, for it creates the geometry while you control the motion. With merely 10 strings, some gears, and some intentional design, you can create something magnificent. You interact with the most important force of nature and let it throw you back to the foundational days of your life.

Juan Delagarza
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stay up

The inspiration for my project is the idea of optimizing our relationship with technology in our contemporary, twenty-first century, day to day lives. My binary body device is called “Stay Up”. Stay Up is a device that supports your smart phone, and stands upright on beds, sofas and other horizontal surfaces so that you can slide your head inside to view images, movies, facetimes, videos or just listen to music without having to use your extended arms for support of your phone. You will no longer have to worry about breaking your neck or having a phone fall flat on your face when you’re having lazy days in bed. Stay Up’s red polar fleece curtains add to the cinematic appeal of the device giving off a movie theatre vibe and giving the “theatre’s” occupant the option of a private viewing. 

Shelsea Duran
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sleepable hat

A stylish device that makes it comfortable to sleep anywhere. A Device capable of protecting you from the devilish UV rays that beat down throughout the day. My Device is a robust piece of art that brings the functionality of a hat together with the functionality of a pillow. Traveling with it is simultaneously simple and deceptive. One moment it’s a hat that dazzles the crowds, and the next it’s a comfortable pillow ready for use for that much needed nap.

Howard Hinton
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h2o to go

The medical field captivates me, particularly Biomedical Engineering. I specifically want to provide healthcare to families, communities, and countries. To apply my interests to a large-scale design problem, I fabricated a portable water filtration system. My system allows for hands-free carrying of the filtration system leaving one’s hands available for performing daily activities. Slip off the conical armband, insert the filter, fill the armband with water and wait for the filtration process to complete itself. Once complete, return the filter to its armband sleeve, put your armbands back on and either consume your clean water where you are or carry your filtered water back home. I see my portable water filtration system as having applications both at home and abroad. My research identified third-world countries such as India, Kenya, and Madagascar where children walk up to 6 miles daily to collect contaminated water. H20 to Go provides a solution for communities that have limited access to clean water.

“I definitely grew in my ability to work collaboratively and design. MITES Architecture was a great confidence booster for me, and pushed me to believe that I can become a successful engineer. I discovered my creativity style and further rooted myself in my journey to make a difference in the world. The course transformed me and pushed me in ways I never expected.”

A’yanah Jefferson
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nap stack

My binary body device combines the ideas of whole/separate and constant/changeable. My device, in its “whole” state, is simply a cube; however once unfolded, the cube becomes three separate modular components which one can lounge on. Each part is distinct and has a different shape for sitting or lying down. Nap Stack is for singles and pairs allowing for more than one person to lay down comfortably. Nap Stack’s multiple functions/states allow one to maximize the amount of furniture within the same amount of area saving both money and space. 

Ashly Medina
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“Support” is a flat backpack attachment that transforms into a minimalist, portable lounge allowing one to prop up a sun chair at any given moment and reattach to a backpack when not in use. Support’s binary function is open and closed, packed and unpacked. Light weight was achieved by combining the thinnest plywood material possible with braided twine laced through a system of laser cut holes. The body’s weight causes the braided twine to go into tension. The quantity of holes spreads the body’s load throughout the chair allowing for a thinner plywood structure and a lighter backpack load.

Kenney Nguyen
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pride wings

My binary body device incorporates the up and down movements of a person’s two arms. When a person’s arms are extended towards the sky, the fan displays an image. There are two “anchor” points on either side of the body in order to lock the device in place. Since the person’s torso could also serve to complete the image, my binary device involves a large portion of the body creating one cohesive image.  I projected the continent of Africa on one side and the word AFRICA on the other side and altered the color scheme to give my device a more dramatic presence. I am thinking about calling it Pride Wings; I hope my creation can find its home at sport stadiums as well as music festivals as it can be personalized to incorporate whatever gives its wearer a sense of pride.

Anastasia Onyango
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color in motion

My binary body device started as an exploration of the binary conditions of disconnected versus connected. Taking my inspiration from the machines of Rube Goldberg, I designed different devices that explored the motion of the human body as a trigger for mechanical motion. For my final version, the body drives the movement of the Color in Motion device. The back-and-forth movement of the arms while a person is running turns the pulley system that moves the painted wooden extensions up and down. The purpose of the device is to transfer energy from the movement of the runner’s arms into color patterns that are created by the movement of the wooden extensions.

Zuly Pasillas
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the marvelous costume

The dichotomy between illusions and reality is a paradigm that humans have pondered for millennia. Humans have also been trying to find ways to sneak food into theaters for about the last century. Now you can do both with the brand-new Marvelous Costume Starter Pack (patent pending) With this wonderfully deceptive accessory set, you can sneak food into a movie theater while giving off the illusion that you are a huge geek.

Anthony Ramirez
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chest on chest chess

My bold binary body device is a portable chess game. Chest on Chest Chess physically connects two opponents while they confront, clash, and compete. Pre and post confrontation, the game compacts so that it can be carried around as you seek out your next opponent. 

Chest on Chest Chess includes custom designed laser cut chess pieces with the ability to stick to the board so two people can move and play at the same time. Chess pieces stick to the game board as each square is made of velcro and each game piece includes velcro adhered to its bottom. 

Kaitlyn Thoennes
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bandoleer chandelier

Ornamentation has played an important role in the development of human culture, as humans have incorporated art and design into their tools and onto their torsos for thousands of years. My project is designed around the concept of adding functionality to a traditionally ornamental device. I am showcasing this concept in the form of an oversized piece of jewelry, “body jewelry” that with its inclusion of metal rings potentially carries additional items both fanciful and functional. If fanciful vs. functional is the Bandolier Chandelier’s small scale binary, its large-scale binary is its ability to switch from body jewelry to building jewelry in its alternate or dual role of light “shade” and jewelry organizer.

Lilliana Vela
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final review & exposition

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