2.007 — 'the mother of all robot contests'
MIT's annual 2.007 Mechanical Engineering Robot Contest has been dubbed the mother of all robot contests.
When Woodie Flowers SM ’68, MEng ’71, PhD ’73 was an MIT student in mechanical engineering, most of his classes involved paper-and-pencil design exercises with predetermined “right” solutions; actual class-related construction work tended to be limited to small test devices, built by the book. But having grown up taking things apart and putting them back together, he had a strong affinity for making things, and for making them work.
As he transitioned from student to teacher at MIT, that inclination guided Flowers to take an innovative approach to education: He developed a hands-on, project-centered mechanical engineering class, which has since been widely imitated both at MIT and elsewhere. He also collaborated in the creation of a popular and influential robotics competition for elementary and high school students and hosted a television series that helped draw new generations of students into science and engineering.
Flowers started developing his educational approach to that first class, “Introduction to Design and Manufacturing,” as a teaching assistant. Known originally in MIT’s course-numbering system as 2.70, and now as 2.007, the class has become one of the Institute’s most popular. Still offered every spring, it starts with teams of students receiving identical kits of parts, and culminates in a frenetic and enthusiastic competition among robotic devices designed and built over the course of the semester.
But the competition, Flowers always made clear when teaching 2.007, was really just for fun, and not a component of the students’ grades. Although the contest may have helped to provide motivation for clever designs, what he was really seeking to instill in the students was a can-do attitude, a sense of pride and a philosophy he describes as “gracious professionalism.”
Jeff Silva and MIT Video Productions