2020(S09) Lecture:week 3

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Contents

Week 3 Studio

Part 1: The Sorting Hat

Based on the ideas from your letters, comic strips and storyboards the class will be organized into TEMPORARY camps. These camps are intended to cluster related projects and will include all the interesting corners and regions of the project areas you've defined so far. Each camp will also be assigned one or more senior biological engineering student(s) from 20.902/947 as the camp counselor(s). Once sorted, you, your campmates and your counselor(s) should review and catalog the ideas that got you there. In cataloging your ideas, you should include

  • a name for each project
  • a one sentence description of the problem or opportunity it will address
  • and any idea you're working on as a solution.

Prepare this catalog as a powerpoint presentation that you will show to the class. The last slide in your presentation should be a recap slide to review all the ideas presented. The last hour of the studio time will be dedicated to the presentation of these camp catalogs.

Part 2: Mapping the world of projects

Pull up a chair and listen as your classmates present their catalogs of ideas. As you listen , you should make note of those projects from each camp that are most interesting to you and why. You will be asked list your top choice and your second choice for camps and your top three project ideas in each camp before next week.

Follow-up homework

First, watch this video that the National Academy of Engineering has produced. The video touches on the NAE's "grand challenges" that they believe must be met to address the needs of the 21st century. Some of the challenges are futuristic and some are intended to repair our legacy problems from the 20th century. The challenges may help you think about your project work and your priorities for this term. Note, the challenges presented in this video were selected by a committee, they may not be the best or most important challenges that *you* can think of.

Next, consider the challenges and opportunities that were presented in today's studio.

In advance of next week's studio, email your 3 favorite project ideas as well as your first and second choice for a camp assignment to your counselors. Your camp counselors will forward a collected spreadsheet to Natalie and Drew in advance of next week's studio. That's when you'll be assigned a team and get started on 3 ideas in your challenge area.

Week 3 Thursday

Challenge: The Clock of the Long Now

Humans have had a stable climate for about 10,000 years, let's hope for another 10,000 at least. Assuming no catastrophic events, what would you like to build now that could still be working 10,000 years from now? How could you build such a long-lasting artifact? Wisely anticipating future needs is part of it. For example carpenters in the 14th century built marvelous wooden cathedrals. At the same time, the builders knew that the beams of the structures would eventually need replacing. So, they planted trees, preparing hundreds of years ahead by providing for the future raw materials needs. What else might need to be pre-positioned to perpetuate an artifact through time?

Ruins of the Roman Forum
Ruins of the Roman Forum

Instructions: Find four colleagues you haven't yet worked with this term, work together to design a clock according to the Danny Hill's specifications. Danny called for "a clock that ticks once a year, the century hand advances once every one hundred years, and the cuckoo comes out on the millennium. I want the cuckoo to come out every millennium for the next 10,000 years." Several design considerations will be important to discuss as you think about how to build a clock that will behave as expected until the year 12,008. You will have 45 minutes to address these aspects of your clock's design and documentation:

  1. longevity: how will you keep the clock working, presuming you'll have all and only the technology and materials that are available today?
  2. maintenance: how will your children's children's children keep this clock working? You can assume they'll be as smart but no smarter than you.
  3. user's guide: how will future generations understand this clock without stopping or disassembling it?
  4. improvements: how will you improve your clock over time? It should be possible to improve the clock over time?
  5. prototyping: how will you build and test your clock?

Begin by reviewing the rules for brainstorming (here) then either build consensus around one idea or take a vote for the top 3 and then the top choice. Once the general idea for your clock is set, get to work on each of the design elements listed above. After 45 minutes, each table will report back to the group. You may want to organize your ideas or sketch your plan on the whiteboards. You should also record your ideas in your lecture response log here where you'll note

  • what the activity was
  • why you think it might have been included in this class
  • if the activity helped you think about:
    • ways to make biology easier to engineer
    • consequences of successfully engineering biology
    • clever ways nature solves physical challenges
    • ways nature innovates
  • if the activity has given you any new tools/considerations that could be useful for your project.

Follow-up homework

In this assignment you will address a challenge from NASA's website, namely, "if you could toss a bottle out into space, what message would you seal into it for anyone -- or any thing -- to open some day far away from our solar system?" This challenge was addressed more than 25 years ago when NASA's two Voyager spacecraft launched. Both Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 carried "Golden Records" with messages to inform other beings about earth.

  • First, visit the NASA site that presents some contents of the Voyager Golden Records. Evaluate what was included. What was perfect? What was silly? What isn't relevant anymore? What seems misguided? What might be open to misinterpretation? Be sure to offer your favorite element on the record and your least favorite and say why.
  • Second, make your own Golden Record. You should consider what content you would include in a message for our intergalactic friends.

This assignment has two parts but you should spend no more than one hour completing both.
If you have the time and interest you might want to look at the antique hardware being maintained for the sole purpose of communicating with the Voyager space crafts. Does this make you rethink any aspects of your clock for the long now?
Your assignment should be posted before the next lecture to the lecture response log that's

here.
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