A semester of media and content design for Product Design Education
Fall 2018 I was a full-time teaching assistant for MIT Mechanical engineering’s largest capstone class, 2.009 Product Design.
What is 2.009?
2.009 teaches students the fundamentals of product design and teamwork. 20 person teams must ideate, model, and test to create a full alpha prototype for a massive final product launch. The team process is very structured, with set milestones, deliverables, presentations, and downselects; but the product ideas, prototypes, and final deliverable are all their own.
Each year the class has a different theme to guide ideation, and in 2018 that was "Danger". A majority of the class graphics and events are designed around that theme. When I took the class, I predominantly developed electronics for a "Super" product that coordinated search and rescue parties. You can see that project here.
How it Happens…
2.009 is renown among MIT classes for its wonderfully over-the-top production value: everyday lectures have custom graphics, rehearsed skits, and team-building activities in addition to multiple large-scale events held throughout the term. To this end, the class is staffed by a professor and five TAs who handle all the event planning, filming, photography, video production, and website updates, in addition to standard lecture preparation and helping the students.
In addition to helping with the graphics and lecture preparation, I predominantly worked on the media side of the class. 2.009 is such a massive project that I was easily averaging 60-80 hours a week throughout the majority of the term. Day to day I filmed students and lectures, helped mount posters, worked on video projects, transferred, organized and tagged footage, and ordered and organized class materials. Additionally, I was proud of the fact that I was the go-to TA for technical or electronics help, questions, and troubleshooting. On the right you can see some the projects I helped with.
As in past years we opened presentations with a cinematic video showing the beauty of Boston, MIT, and the class; predominantly using quadcopter footage taken by the current TAs. This year the video was shown on a 40ft by 10ft ultrawide projected screen, which added an additional layer of complexity.
I'd never flown a quadcopter before MIT, so I really enjoyed the opportunity to learn and practice taking arial footage.
I briefly mentioned this project on my videography page but I'll go into a bit more detail here. Despite a strong grasp of Final Cut and multiple small videos under my belt by this late in the semester; iteratively timelining, taking new footage, stabilizing and transitioning took a lot of time and always left me feeling like there was more footage to take and editing to be done. In particular, I'm still struck by the slightly oversaturated pinks in one of the clips of the inflatable tube men. Long story short is that video editing is hard, like really hard, but I’m really proud of the final product.
Previous years, course staff used a series of physical drives and backup drives. At the beginning of the term i had to find reference files from last year and realized previous years had no consistent file structure and files were impossible to find.
To improve that I built and maintained a media server with twice the capacity for this years expected file output, created a chronological file system and media tree, and wrote sync scripts that automatically backed up to the server when files were ready on drives. The media server utilized 10 gigabit ethernet to speed up large file transfers. In total we took 8TB of video and 4TB of photos. Additionally, we switched video editing programs to Final Cut Pro X, which is much better at managing, organizing, and tagging large amounts of external files. Future semesters should find this system highly useful and our files easy to find.
2.009 has been a fabulous learning experience for me as my first full-time position out of college. Learning how to work well with a perfectionist manager with seemingly limitless energy, balancing my own personal responsibilities and objectives with being a good team member, having to make tough decisions to descope a project in order to meet a deadline were all extremely valuable skills. I’m really looking forward to being able to use the skills I’ve developed in my next position.
Thanks for reading