Breakerspace sheds light on the enigmas of materials

Just days before the anticipated opening of MIT’s Breakerspace, a new laboratory and lounge, Jaden Smith, actor and rapper, had the opportunity to test out the facility’s capabilities. Smith was able to view a 3D rendering of woven threads under a digital optical microscope and was so inspired that he suggested it could be his next album cover.

Professor Jeffrey Grossman, an expert in Environmental Systems in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering (DMSE), recounts Smith’s enthusiasm during the testing. This interaction highlights the potential for the Breakerspace to inspire students, regardless of their major, to explore the world of materials science.

The Breakerspace serves as the centerpiece of DMSE’s strategic vision to promote and showcase materials science and engineering. The laboratory is equipped with advanced tools and instruments for analyzing various materials and aims to foster excitement and exploration in the field.

The Breakerspace officially opened its doors to the public on November 8, with nearly 300 people attending the three-hour opening event. Attendees were treated to demonstrations of the facility’s capabilities, including a digital optical microscope showcasing the shaft and barbs of a feather, a scanning electron microscope zooming in on a Boston landscape etched into an MIT class ring, and a tensile test machine slowly pulling apart a metal bar. The lounge area also provided a comfortable space for creative thinking and socializing, complete with coffee brewed from an Italian coffee machine.

The Breakerspace was inspired by Professor Grossman’s belief in the power of hands-on learning. Grossman would often incorporate interactive activities into his teachings, such as handing out materials and tools to reinforce lessons or inviting students to experiment with glass panes and baseballs to better understand the effects of mechanical stress.

Instrumentation in the Breakerspace ranges from digital optical microscopes to advanced machines like X-ray diffractometers and scanning Raman microscopes. The facility also provides content creation tools for students to record their experiments and share them on social media platforms. The accessible nature of the instruments allows students to quickly and easily utilize them for exploration and analysis.

While the Breakerspace primarily caters to MIT undergraduates, it is also open for teaching purposes. The facility has already been used for class 3.042 (Materials Project Laboratory) and will host upcoming classes, including 3.000 (Coffee Matters: How to Brew the Perfect Cup) and 3.S06 (Introduction to Materials Characterization). The Breakerspace’s inclusion in the curriculum provides students with valuable hands-on experience in the field of materials science and engineering.

Overall, the Breakerspace serves as a dedicated space for undergraduates to learn, explore, and build a community around materials science. The facility not only offers access to advanced tools and instruments but also aims to foster curiosity and excitement for the world of materials.

To learn more about the Breakerspace, visit dmse.mit.edu/breakerspace.

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