Crafted by Nature: Material Systems and Fabrication Technologies
2010 - ongoing
Prereq: Permission of instructor
H-LEVEL Grad Credit

Digital design and fabrication technologies inspired by nature is an emerging research area that exploits the principles, logic and behavior of natural systems in the design of the built environment. The knowledge objective is to provide a research-based understanding of how such processes occur in nature and find their translation in the design of the artificial. The course provides a foundation of relevant knowledge in biologically inspired digital design & fabrication through an introduction to the theory and literature of Biomimicry. Exploiting this knowledge, the course will focus on various material processes such as weaving, folding and layering in micro and macro various scales. We will review the formal logic, mechanical behavior, and environmental impacts of a range of natural and synthetic materials as well as ways by which to shape them, inherent to their physical properties. Through physical and digital form-finding exercises, we will explore the relationships between materials and their shaping processes in the generation of form. We will invent novel fabrication methods inspired by nature and reconsider the way things are designed and made in the 21st century. The course is intended for advanced students with an interest in bio-inspired design and some design background in fabrication-based design. Competence in computational geometry and some command of parametric design software and basic programming are desirable. General knowledge of CAD, CAM and CAE platforms is encouraged. Enrollment limited, a short interest statement is required upon registration.

N. Oxman
Image Credit: Yoram Reshef

Prereq: Permission of instructor
H-LEVEL Grad Credit
Class Website:

The MIT Media Lab has a strong and vibrant legacy of achievements in arts-related disciplines that has helped to shape the culture and development of our organization. This fall, Professors Tod Machover and Neri Oxman will lead a course especially focused on capturing this richly unique history through a critical analysis of the arts at the Lab to date. Exploring the past, present and future, ARTS@MEDIA LAB will bring to light the great accomplishments of the Media Lab community, covering topics such as Radical Design; Very Unusual Music; Tangible and Intangible Media; Art, Design or Demo, and Does it Matter?; and will explore the work and vision of Muriel Cooper, Ricky Leacock, Steve Benton, Bill Mitchell and others. Guest speakers include Nicholas Negroponte, Glorianna Davenport, Hiroshi Ishii, Karen Donoghue, Marvin Minsky and David Edwards (Le Labo, Paris). Students will be encouraged to create the foundations for archiving arts activity at the Lab, and also to develop speculative proposals for projects that contribute to the future of our arts culture.

T. Machover and N. Oxman
Image Credit: Prof. Tod Machover

Integrative Design Across Disciplines, Scales and Problem Contexts
4.110 / MAS.330
Prereq: None
U-LEVEL (Please note: H-LEVEL Grad Credit will be considered for participating ML students)
Class Website: Coming up soon

Explores the reciprocal relationships between design, science, and technology. Covers a wide range of topics, such as industrial design, architecture, visualization/perception, design computation, material ecology, environmental design and environmental sustainability. Examines how transformations in science and technology have influenced design thinking and vice versa. Students develop methodologies for design research and collaborate on design solutions to interdisciplinary problems.

J.M. Yoon and N. Oxman
Image Credit: Steven Keating
NSF Summer Course
Mediated Matter : Biologicaly-Inspired Digital Design and Fabrication
Prereq: Via NSF
Class Website:

NSF Summer Institute Short Course on MateriomicsóMerging Biology and Engineering in Multiscale Structures and Materials
Location: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, LeMeridien Hotel (former Hotel@MIT)
Chair: Markus J. Buehler, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (mbuehler@MIT.EDU)
Dates: May 30 (Wednesday) morning to June 1 (Friday) evening, 2012

This course will provide an introduction into the emerging science at the interface of engineering and biology, with a focus on the integration of multiscale modeling and experiment. Applying material design principles derived from biology—and specifically, the concept of developing diverse hierarchical structures composed of universal and simple design elements, used to derive sustainable and robust materials—is crucial for the next-generation engineering materials that are highly functional while satisfying multiple design constraints. This finds practical applications for example in regenerative medicine for de novo tissue growth, advanced carbon-based materials that are not only strong and tough, and self-learning material systems whose properties can be tailored by solely changing the structure without a need to introduce new building blocks. This Summer Institute features experimental, computational and theoretical instructors from various areas of science, dealing with multiple length-scales, from nanoto macro. Participants and instructors will engage in indepth discussions on the frontiers, challenges, and opportunities in this emerging field referred to as materiomics. A unique feature of this short course is the participation of scientists from disparate fields that includes engineering mechanics, synthetic biology and architecture. To make breakthroughs in this field, the introduction of dramatically new methods are critical, such as mathematical tools to understand and predict structure and hierarchies using geometric methods, folding of peptides, DNA, proteins or membranes or other structures, as well as the implementation of multiscale structures in diverse fields such as synthetic biology and architecture, which can be combined with new nanoscale engineering methods and chemistry. This Summer Institute will explore the application of these concepts towards the engineering design of materials from the bottom up and the application in high-impact areas of science and engineering.

N. Oxmand et al.
Image Credit: Steven Keating