Teaching Design Education at MIT

October 22, 2013

If you’ve been following the dig program, you know that the goal of the program is to teach K-12 students about product development and entrepreneurship and give them the opportunity to learn first-hand what it’s like to design real products, and create real start-ups, right in the classroom.

We came across a class that is being taught at MIT called Course 2.739 (Product Design and Development), which is strikingly similar in its process to the dig program.

The students of Course 2.739 experience that structure first-hand as they design and develop a new product throughout the semester on a team of six to eight members. Each team consists of at least one engineering student, one MIT Sloan School of Management student, and one student from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), which partners with MIT for the course.

They bring students from different backgrounds – engineering, business, and industrial design – together so that they can learn how to value and collaborate with people from various disciplines that work together in the product design world.

The students work together in a hands-on lab that focuses on developing a new product, a process that, like dig-8, includes consumer research, design, prototyping, financial planning, marketing, testing, and a final presentation of the manufactured prototype. In the end, the students are judged on “the market value of their product idea, their justification for the market opportunity, the quality of the prototype, and the effectiveness of their presentation.”

“Even with 10 years of industry experience in manufacturing, I didn’t have product design on my radar at all prior to taking this class,” says David McCalib MEng ’13, who just started his new position as design engineer at Amazon. “But now I’m always thinking about it and have more tools than I ever did before. It was like training wheels for product development. Now we have the confidence to do it ourselves.”

Just like Course 2.739, dig-8 teaches students important problem solving, presentation, and cognitive skills, as well as research methods, sales strategies, critical analysis, and manufacturing techniques. In addition, it encourages creative thinking, collaboration, team building, and leadership. It is always nice to hear that there are others teaching similar programs to dig-8. Some of the designs that came from the 2.739 class are shown below. To read more about the program, click here.

The AvaTech team created a collapsible digital snow profiler for detecting potential avalanches while skiing, snowmobiling, and mountaineering (photo from

The Handy Bandy group designed and built a product for easy and convenient Band-Aid storage removal, and application (photo from

The Pharmakeet team developed a discrete and autonomous mobile phone application to make it easier for the visually impaired to obtain key prescription drug information through a Quick Response (QR) code scanning function (photos from

Fore more information on how you can get involved in dig-8, or for a copy of the syllabus, check out the page below.

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