Congratulations to the three winners of D-Lab UGC Fieldwork Grants!

Katelyn Sweeney ’18

McCall Huston ’16

Julia Rue ’18


Congratulations to the winners of the first ever UGC Peer Impact Prize! Here are the winners:

  • 1st Place: Katelyn Sweeney ’18, Creating a More Comfortable Transtibial Prosthetic Socket, Kijabe, Kenya
  • 2nd Place: McCall Huston ’16, Peer-to-Peer Electricity Distribution Through Solar-Powered Microgrids, Jamshedpur area, India
  • 3rd Place: Julia Rue ’18, Wheelchair Design and Manufacturing for Underserved Communities, Indonesia

More on all three projects below!

Katelyn Sweeney on her project, Creating a More Comfortable Transtibial Prosthetic Socket, Kijabe, Kenya

I plan to design and prototype a transtibial prosthetic socket that will adapt to short and long-term growth of the user. In order to accomplish this, a granular compartmentalized socket is needed to account for the varied materials and inherent complexity of the human leg, and maximize the device’s stability and function. I will construct the socket out of materials local to Kijabe, and that are easy to maintain and repair. This support to the local amputee community will empower them to control and customize their own prosthetics. 

Due to the customizable nature of our socket design, fieldwork is critical in order to effectively apply the device to existing limb technologies at CURE Hospital in Kijabe, teach patients how to apply their new sockets, and empower the patients to properly customize their devices. A UGC funded D-Lab Fieldwork Grant will allow me to travel abroad and complete field tests.

McCall Huston on her project, Peer-to-Peer Electricity Distribution Through Solar-Powered Microgrids, Jamshedpur area, India

I plan to get feedback on the user interface of current product prototypes, explore manufacturing capabilities of local facilities for future mass production and learn about the supply chain for similar consumer products.

The UGC Award will help fund my travel to India as well as finance materials for rapid prototyping of product mock-ups. A large part of the grant will cover airfare costs and living expenses while on the trip. The remainder will allow me to make physical prototypes for on-site user testing.

Julie Rue: on her project, Wheelchair Design and Manufacturing for Underserved Communities in Indonesia

To implement and user-test two new prototypes for wheelchairs designed for the needs of users in underserved communities in Indonesia. I also plan to observe and trouble-shoot the design of current wheelchairs and their manufacturing process. I hope to help advance and contribute to wheelchair design in developing countries and increase the potential impact of mass-produced technology on individual lives. 

The UGC-funded D-Lab Fieldwork Grant will allow me to travel to Indonesia to implement this project. The money will be used to cover flight costs, room and board, and transportation within Indonesia to different manufacturing buildings, clinics, and communities."

Thank you!

And thank you to all of the volunteers and donors who made the fall Underclassmen Giving Campaign a huge success this semester! Here’s the breakdown of the results for just one week of fundraising from the classes of 2017, 2018 and 2019:

Number of Underclassman donors:842
Total Underclassman Participation: 26%
Total Underclassman Dollars raised: $3,315
Total Dollars with match by Joe Levitch ’69:$6,630

The UGC will start up again this spring, if you want to volunteer or learn more about the UGC send us an email at ugc@mit.edu.

D-Lab Fall Student Showcase & Open House 2015

Final presentations & working prototypes from current D-Lab students
Friday, December 4, 5:00-7:00 pm - D-Lab, MIT N51 3rd floor (310)

D-Lab challenges talented students to use their math, science, engineering, social science, and business skills to tackle a broad range of global poverty issues. Come see the projects our students are working on!

WHAT: Final presentations & working prototypes from current D-Lab students
WHEN: Friday, December 4th from 5:00 to 7:00 pm 
WHERE: At D-Lab, MIT N51-3rd Floor

D-Lab students from the 10 fall courses offered will be presenting!

D-Lab: Development
- D-Lab: Discovery
- D-Lab: Field Research
- D-Lab: Mobility
 D-Lab: Prosthetics
- D-Lab: Schools
D-Lab: Supply Chains
D-Lab: Waste
Design for Scale

To kick things off, students will give brief presentations. Attendees will then be able to view all the working prototypes on display throughout the D-Lab space! All welcome.

D-Lab Underclassmen Giving Campaign Fieldwork Grants of up to $3,500 - deadline October 19!

MIT freshmen, sophomores, and juniors: Secure $2,375 - $3,500 for D-Lab-related fieldwork from the Underclassmen Giving Campaign!

Fernando Ruiz '16 - Uganda.

Yiping Xing and Coyin Oh - Ghana.

Chheangkea Ieng '17 - Peru.

Sydney Beasley '14 - Mexico.

MIT D-Lab Fieldwork Grants provide funding to send students abroad and continue work initiated at D-Lab to benefit communities in the developing world. These grants are intended for projects that began in a D-Lab class, independent study, UROP, research fellowship, or other D-Lab context. 

Eligibility: MIT freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who:

  • Are currently taking—or have taken—a D-Lab course.
  • Are currently doing a UROP at D-Lab or IDIN research fellowship or have in the past.
  • Are currently working on or have worked on a D-Lab project in any other capacity.

Note: You are not eligible if you have guaranteed travel funding through a class (e.g., D-Lab: Development).


The Underclassmen Giving Campaign

Since October 2006, MIT freshmen, sophomores, and juniors have been donating their time and money to support student grants (this year, D-Lab Fieldwork Grants) through the Underclassmen Giving Campaign (UGC). 

Each semester, volunteers gather in Lobby 10 for a one-week campaign, encouraging classmates to support their fellow students by helping fund their project ideas and turn them into reality.

MIT D-Lab Fieldwork Grants

MIT D-Lab Fieldwork Grants provide funding to send students abroad and continue work initiated at D-Lab to benefit communities in the developing world. These grants are intended for projects that began in a D-Lab class, independent study, UROP, research fellowship, or other D-Lab context.

Fundraising and Voting

Donating to the UGC is simple. Each fall and spring we conduct a campaign to raise money to support Expedition Grants for the upcoming year in Lobby 10 from freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Donating via the UGC website is also an option. Each underclassman who donates gets to vote for her/his favorite project! While all three D-Lab Fieldwork Grant nominees are guarenteed funding, additional Peer Impact Prize  awards of $1500, $750, or $325 will be awarded based on the number of votes received. Underclassmen can certainly donate as many times as they want during the campaign, each donor is allowed only one vote.

Finalist Responsibilities & Qualifications

UGC finalists will represent the UGC, D-Lab, and their project throughout the campaign period. If a team project is selected for funding, the team must designate one individual to represent the team. Finalists may promote their project using various marketing channels, such as, but not limited to: face-to-face communication, e-mail, text messaging and social media. Finalists may not endorse any project other than their own. The MIT Annual Fund will provide information on the finalist’s projects at Lobby 10 booth sessions, co-sponsored class council and UA events and online. Finalists are not responsible for soliciting gifts and should refer prospective donors to a UGC committee member.


  • Attend a 20-minute informational meeting to learn about the UGC 
  • Provide D-Lab staff with the requested project information 
  • Participate in a two-minute marketing video explaining the project’s focus
  • Attend the UGC’s kick-off candidate poster session from 12-2 pm on November 16 in Lobby 10
  • Promote your project during the UGC campaign period. Promotional opportunities include: Lobby 10 booth sessions, co-sponsored class council or UA events, speaking opportunities at class or a student organization meeting, e-mail, text messaging, and social media channels
  • Publicize the UGC
  • Make your own gift during the campaign period


  • Strong communication skills
  • Belief in giving back to the MIT student community
  • Enthusiasm for MIT and D-Lab
  • The ability to make time for UGC activities

Fall 2015 Timeline

  • Applications due: October 19
  • Announcement of finalist selections: October 26
  • UGC informational meeting (required): Week of November 2
  • Finalist two-minute video recordings: Week of November 2
  • UGC kick-off candidate poster session:12-2 pm on November 16 in Lobby 10
  • Campaign and voting: November 16-20, 2015

Download the D-Lab UGC Fieldwork Grant application here!

D-Lab associate Heather Beem and the Practical Education Network

Heather Beem, founder and CEO of the Practical Education Network (right) at the TTI Fab Lab in 2011.

A 'maize-raise' excercise in Ghana.

Heather (center)at the TTI Fab Lab in 2011. 

Hands-on sciences using local materials!

Heather Beem completed a PhD in Mechanical Engineering at MIT in 2015. She has been involved in D-Lab in such a variety of ways that we consider her an alumna, though "associate" might be a more appropriate term! She was twice co-instructor for D-Lab: Education, has mentored teams in D-Lab: Energy and D-Lab: Design, and led a student trip. This fall, she is co-instructing D-Lab: Discovery. Heather is co-founder and chief executive officer of the Practical Education Network, run by a team which, in addition to Heather, includes several D-Lab alumni and a former instructor.


Came for the PhD, left with working with science educators in Ghana

In what is perhaps true D-Lab style, my journey has avoided most traditional paths. I came to MIT for the Ph.D. program in Mechanical Engineering. I left with a doctorate in hand and desire in heart to work with science educators in Ghana. 

A passion for learning-by-doing

Soon after arriving on campus, I began hearing bits and pieces about D-Lab, so I wandered over and took a tour. The rooms were tucked out of sight, but bustling with activity and an unusual sense of possibility, which struck me. 

As I dove deep into my graduate research, I began building a strong desire to share what I was learning with others. I found some other students thinking along similar lines, and we joined forces and created Practical Education Network (PEN). We built a vision of sharing the MIT-style learning-by-doing as widely as possible. What if youth everywhere became local innovators, designing and building solutions to their own challenges?

We tested different ways of engaging youth in hands-on science and engineering: running science fairs, teaching students to build solar powered lamps, writing curricula, and sharing it with educators from Ghana to Peru and Boston. In 2011, I made my first trip to Ghana, where I worked with students at the Takoradi Technical Institute (TTI) Fab Lab, a community partner connection from a D-Lab class that my teammates participated in. 

Through these efforts, our eyes were opened to the potential for work in this space of development and education, so we looked for ways to engage the larger MIT community in tackling these challenges. 

We approached D-Lab, found like-minded colleagues with similar goals, and we collaboratively developed the D-Lab: Education course. Co-instructing that class began my official involvement with D-Lab, and marked the start of a slew of experiences there, including trip-leading, mentoring, and co-teaching various classes and teams. 

Leading the Practical Education Network

Since graduating, I’ve been leading PEN’s efforts to scale hands-on science. I am just returning from Ghana, where we ran trainings with more than 300 science teachers around Greater Accra, sharing ideas for using local materials to teach experientially. The responses were positive, the potential for scale is big, and I eagerly envision the possibilities ahead. 

From all of these experiences, I have tasted the joy of using engineering and design to build simple solutions to real problems. Collaborating with and learning from real people has developed into a necessary dimension of my work. And perhaps most important, that sense of possibility that first struck me is something I have now been able to share with many others.

SurgiBox wins AAAS Science and Human Rights poster competition

Debbie Lin Teodorescu.


Surgibox under development.


Maddie Hickman, MIT 2011.


MIT D-Lab Special Projects Coordinator Dennis Nagle.

D-Lab associate Debbie Lin Teodorescu, D-Lab special projects coordinator Dennis Nagle, D-Lab alumna Madeline Hickman, and David King of Massachusetts General Hospital have come together over the last several years to produce SurgiBox, which recently won an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) human rights poster competition, held in Washington, DC.

SurgiBox: safe, aseptic surgery where none was previously possible

Over 25 percent of the global disease burden requires surgical therapy, which could prevent over 18 million deaths per year. Yet two billion people have no access to surgical care, and two to three billion have access only to unsterile surgeries. Costly infectious complications strain countries' medical budgets. 

The goal of the SurgiBox is to improve access to safe, aseptic surgery even in settings lacking standard surgical facilities, while making operating safer, more ergonomic, and less cumbersome for healthcare providers.

SurgiBox shrinks the problem of surgical sterility from operating-room-sized to less than one-fifth of a cubed meter. A user seals the system of sterile clear containers over the patient and operates via ports. Modules can augment the sterile field. An integrated ventilation system controls field conditions.

The device can collapse to backpack size for rapid deployment in emergency and remote settings. SurgiBox exemplifies how collaboration among engineering, medicine, and social sciences can help overcome resource and infrastructural barriers to implementing global surgery as a human right.

The SurgiBox story: exemplifying the way D-Lab brings people together

In 2011, while Debbie was at medical school, the original SurgiBox concept was born. The idea was to create a way to keep the area right around a wound sterile by covering it with a container and operating through ports. But she had no idea how to make it a reality. None of her medical colleagues had ideas either.

But Debbie had visited D-Lab a couple of years earlier and found it "an incredibly welcoming place." So, as she begain to toss the idea for SurgiBox around, Debbie contacted José Gomez-Marquez and Anna Young who made up the D-Lab Health team at the time, and they invited Debbie to work on the idea at the old D-Lab space on Carleton Street.

Debbie remembers, "They modestly said it could be a safe place for exploring, like one's own home garage - but I would definitely say that D-Lab is much better than any garage, because of the energetic community, the great hands-on teaching, and the makerspace setup."

D-Lab special projects coordinator Dennis Nagle got involved from very early on and has been an in-the-trenches supporter for SurgiBox throughout its development. In addition to teaching Debbie all about shop machines and materials including LEDs, and fans, and more, Dennis's expertise with plastics has been essential to the project's advancement. Together, Debbie and Dennis built prototypes and planned and ran tests side-by-side. Debbie says, "The SurgiBox Alpha Prototype (a tiny straw version) sits permanently on Dennis's desk because he helped drive the evolution of the original clunky box concept to a light drape/tent-like one."

In 2014, Maddie Hickman, then an MIT D-Lab student, joined the project and the team continue to move the project through successive prototypes. The current design embodies their ambitious goal: to offer a sterile surgical space that, when deployed, is as good as or better than that in any operating room in Boston, but can be collapsed for easy transport. It is, in essence, an operating room in a backpack. 

Debbie says, "We are in the midst of testing and tweaking the design now. It was extremely gratifying to receive a lot of useful feedback at the AAAS Science and Human Rights Coalition conference, and be recognized for a what the judges described as 'very timely, creative project...on a critically important issue.'"

 Pursuing a D-Lab-inspired joint degree in medicine and mechanical engineering When not working on SurgiBox, Debbie is finishing up an MD degree at Harvard Medical School with the support an AAUW fellowship recognizing her efforts in medicine and biomedical technology. She says that D-Lab inspired her to create the first joint MD/MEng degree at Harvard, completing the MEng component in biomedical engineering at Boston University in 2015. Prior to D-Lab, Debbie worked on low-cost diagnostic platforms and also on cost-effective ways to screen for individuals at exceptional risk of heart failure as well as sudden cardiac death. She is passionate about harnessing technology to solve patient care problems, and make the world a healthier place. 

The SurgiBox team is grateful for funding from the Harvard Medical School Scholars in Medicine Office. The team also thanks Jose Gomez-Marquez and Anna Young for design and implementation advice; MIT D-Lab Workshop manager Jack Whipple for machine shop assistance; and Drs. Christiana Iyasere, Stephen Odom, and Dana Stearns for support. They also thank MIT’s Environmental Health Services, MIT Office of Technology Development, and Partners Research Ventures & Licensing for their support.




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