MIT’s cutting-edge innovation on display at the Edgerton Showcase

Whether it be cars, bikes, or wind turbines — the Institute breathes creativity into engineering endeavors

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Students examine MIT Electric Vehicle Team's hydrogen-powered motorcycle at the Edgerton Center Student Teams Showcase in Lobby 13, Tuesday.
Alexa Simao–The Tech

The third annual Edgerton Showcase took place on April 9 in Lobby 13, giving the MIT community a snapshot of the world of design teams at the Institute. The Edgerton Center has had a long history of assisting student groups with their ambitions, from providing classes in engineering and imaging to monetary support of student organizations and management of the Makerspaces around campus. Many came to see the various student initiatives, ranging from teams prioritizing assistive technology for people with impairments to teams who want robots to fight other robots

Adrienne Lai* ’25 and Rachel Mohammed ’27 gave the opening ceremony to begin the event. Lai described how the Institute’s design teams are all student-led and have steadily grown the past decades, with 18 student teams now being represented at Edgerton from the six teams the Edgerton had merely a decade ago. Mohammed further spoke about her own experiences in the various build teams, and how she was able to apply what she learned in class to projects of real interest.

Many students echoed both Lai and Mohammed’s sentiments. Megan Gupta-She ’25, Captain of MIT Motorsports, detailed how she has been helping her team build electric formula-style race cars for three years. Their current design is a single-seater vehicle with aerodynamics reminiscent of a go-kart, as Gupta-She’s team focuses more on how to accelerate efficiently.

“We have worked on this car for one year,” Megan Gupta-She said in an interview with The Tech. “We started designing this car in June [of last year], and we have started going through the testing cycle. Now and mid-March, we have been testing the car and trying to make it faster until June.”

This year, Motorsports will participate in two competitions: Formula Hybrid in New Hampshire, and the FSAE competition in Michigan. So to be competitive, Gupta-She and her team are constantly iterating their design.

“Every year, when we start building a car, we run a set of simulations — what’s going to be faster, what kind of architecture, what kind of trade-offs there are with suspensions and center of gravity, battery, capacity versus weight — all these sorts of different things,” Gupta-She explained.

The car that Motorsports designed still has not reached its full potential, so Gupta-She’s team has been trying to hit their set performance goals to get their car competition-worthy.

Kofi Agyepong ’25, a member of the MIT Solar Electric Vehicle (Solar Car) team, has a similar plight of getting their vehicle ready for competition, considering the design they adopted for Gemini — their car’s name — is experimental.

“[Gemini] is the first ever two-seater we made on the team. Previously, we’ve only done single-occupancy vehicles,” Agyepong said. “We redesigned our suspension, our battery changed significantly, our aerodynamics changed significantly, so I think it's really a new exercise in engineering for the team, which is a really big challenge.”

Solar Car builds their vehicle every two years, with Gemini taking two-and-a-half years to complete. Like Motorsports, the Solar Car team is also looking to take their vehicle into competitions. Agyepong described how Solar Car races in the American Solar Challenge, a cross-country race that had cars driving for 2,000 miles like in 2002.

“There’s two categories: single-occupant and multi-occupant,” Agyepong said on how the American Solar Challenge works. “In multi-occupant, you’re actually scored on person-miles — the number of miles you drive multiplied by the people in your car, so you’re not at a disadvantage.”

Agyepong further explained that Solar Car’s change from single-occupancy to multi-occupancy was spurred by them winning two competitions in the former category in 2021 and 2022. Thus, the Solar Car team then transitioned to Gemini because of how they “kind of want to try something new.”

New experiences is a topic that JD Hagood ’27 will be able to speak about, as he is one of Spokes’ newest members. In an interview with The Tech, Hagood said he joined Spokes after being told “how much of a great adventure it was, and how [he’s] always loved the outdoors.”

Hagood further said that Spokes is a program that has been at MIT for the past decade, and each year, its members “[bike] from D.C. all the way to San Francisco.”

“Along the way, we stop at schools, camps, and correctional facilities in order to spread STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) from coast to coast,” Hagood said. “We try to target underserved or rural communities to get these kids interested in STEAM and show them that college isn’t far off.”

Spokes will be heading out from D.C. on June 1 and will be biking to San Francisco over the course of 75 days. They aim to use Bicycle Route 76 to traverse across the country, although Hagood acknowledged that they may need to use highways for some portions of the trip.

“What I’m looking forward to the most is seeing this beautiful country,” Hagood said. “We have a big section planned in Utah, where we go through a lot of the national parks there. That’s how we treat ourselves along the way.”

Hagood stated that Spokes is biking rather than driving or taking another mode of transportation because “biking will allow [them] to take [their] time as [they] go through communities.” Hagood said this will allow them to “really connect” and “see how we can best serve them.”

“It also allows us to inspire other kids from coast to coast to stay active and break the stereotype that we here at MIT just have our noses in the books, when that’s not true,” Hagood said. “We can go outside and touch grass.”

Public outreach is a passion of other teams at Edgerton. MIT Wind holds outreach events in Cambridge to engage the community about wind power. MIT Wind is a new team, only beginning this year, but their members are already eager to participate in competitions.

Kirby Heck G, team leader of MIT Wind, stated in an interview with The Tech that as part of the Collegiate Wind Competition in Minneapolis, their team needs to reach out to the public with their work for the Connection Creation Contest.

“It’s a very exciting time to be in Boston and in Massachusetts, where we have a lot of offshore wind that’s going to be very rapidly installed in the future,” Heck stated. “[So we want] to communicate effectively that [wind turbines] are on the whole not affecting wildlife, that they’re important to the decarbonization of our electricity grid, and that there's an immense opportunity here in Massachusetts and across the entire Atlantic coast to be deploying these offshore.”

In terms of design, Heck stated that their team’s goal is to build a replica wind turbine that is 18 inches, or 45 centimeters, in diameter.

“We’re going to test it in a wind tunnel,” Heck said. “Our main goal is to maximize controllability, maximize power production, and minimize any risks related to failure, either from the foundation or from the blades or any other components of the turbine.”

Since the turbine will not be a full-scale replica, Heck and his team are looking into how factors like the blades’ aerodynamics or the wind turbine’s energy conversion efficiency will be different. Heck said that this experience is particularly important for undergraduates, as models like these are “more related to the kinds of things that undergrads would be learning in their classes.”

Heck said, “I think it's a great pairing between what we can build physically and connecting into the theory that classes focus on.”

The Edgerton Showcase showed to the Institute and its community that its students do live up to MIT’s motto. Mens et manus was indeed found during this event.

*Lai is The Tech’s Chief Meteorologist. She was not involved in this article’s publication.