Courtesy of the MIT Hobby Shop
Courtesy of the MIT Hobby Shop

What do these things have in common?

  • An intelligent toothbrush that knows when you are brushing too hard
  • A foldable ukulele
  • A spherical robot that rolls uphill and ascends stairs
  • An all-terrain wheelchair made from bicycle parts that is now sold around the world
  • The “Hairball,” a tangled-wire device to plug pipelines in major oil leaks

They were all invented at MIT’s Hobby Shop, recently featured in Bloomberg News. The tiny, 70-year old workshop—tucked away in a basement at the heart of campus—is a resource for invention and innovation that goes far beyond its folksy name.

The Hobby Shop is also remarkable for its independence. Rather than belonging to any one program or department, it’s a full design and fabrication facility open to any student or faculty member who needs the time and tools to tinker. And that spirit, says MIT President L. Rafael Reif, is the essence of MIT.

“Tinkering and making things is actually part of how we think, how we solve problems, how we learn,” President Reif told Bloomberg. “So one way to understand the Hobby Shop is as a place where ideas happen.”

Read more about the shop and its fascinating history at Bloomberg News.

Step inside the Hobby Shop, present and past, in this MIT News video.

Previously on Continuum: “MIT Hobby Shop Instructor is an Origami Master”

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