Learn-It Kits

Learn-Its are self-guided resources that provide an integrated introduction to basic mechanical design elements; they bridge the gap between superficial how-tos and super-detailed technical guides. They give people the right vocabulary to ask targeted questions in the workshop and online, while outlining detailed tips and explanations of physical phenomena driving how different mechanisms, tools, materials, and fasteners work. People are provided with enough information to critically select the right material, adhesive, or tool for their project.


Measuring 2 feet tall by 3 feet wide, Learn-It boards are designed to be hung on a workshop wall.  There, the Learn-Its act as self-serve references for workshop users making prototyping decisions.  For example, as I go grab some glue for my project, I would swing by the Adhesives Learn-It to make sure I am using the right one for my particular needs and combination of materials.

Generally, the posters are organized around how the subject at hand (fasteners, adhesives or material selection) applies to three categories of material: wood, metal, and plastic.

Learn-It: Fasteners (PDF)

(or click here for a sample with 3D cues)

How do I prepare my wood and metal for a fastener?
What do the numbers on machine screws mean, anyway?
What is the difference between a bolt and a screw?
How do I use washers, again?

Learn-It: Fasteners has the answers!

Learn-It: Adhesives (PDF)

How can I glue wood and canvas together?
Doesn't superglue work on everything?
Should I clamp epoxy?
How much do different adhesives cost?

Learn-It: Adhesives has the answers!


Learn-It: Material Selection (PDF)

(or click here for a sample with 3D cues)

Which plastic is least likely to split?
Which kind of steel should I use?
If I am dealing with food, what materials are recommended?
What shapes does wood come in?

Learn-It: Material Selection has the answers!


The Learn-It videos are short detailed reviews of a particular technology.  A video will highight the key mechanisms, the limitations of those mechanisms, and basic reasoning behind the overall design.  A person might watch these videos to gather insights and inspiration for the machine they are prototyping.

Check out the D-Lab: Learn-It channel on TechTV!

Moringa sheller

Moringa's high value oil and prevalent growth in tropical and subtropical regions compels the development of this style of semi-automated machinery for farmers entering the moringa market. View this video to find out more about this treadle-powered tumbler - made of a bicycle sprocket, perforated metal sheet, and angle iron - that provides a more efficient alternative to shelling moringa seeds by hand.


Adding value to fruits commonly available in tropical regions is easily accomplished by blending them into smoothies - and the Bici-Blender does so without the use of electricity. View this video to learn more about this bicycle-powered blender made of a bicycle hub, ball bearing, bottle cap, and metal bar.


These materials are provided under the Attribution-Non-Commercial 3.0 Creative Commons License, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/. If you choose to reuse or repost the materials, you must give proper attribution to MIT, and you must include a copy of the non-commercial Creative Commons license, or a reasonable link to its url with every copy of the MIT materials or the derivative work you create from it. Please use the following citation format: D-Lab Learn-It: Adhesives Copyright © Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Accessed on [insert date]).

This project was made possible by a grant from the
MIT Alumni Class Funds.