Sampling MIT – Past Installations

Browse past installations from the museum’s ever-changing Sampling MIT exhibition. Connect with cutting-edge research being done by students and staff at MIT today.

Little Sun

Little Sun is a solar alternative to the kerosene lamps used for lighting in many developing countries. For the price of two to three months’ worth of kerosene, this rechargeable solar lantern provides a family with equivalent light—for years, and without the serious health and environmental impacts of burning kerosene.

Launched in 2012 as a venture in social entrepreneurship, Little Sun was created by internationally renowned artist Olafur Eliasson and engineer Frederik Ottesen.

In 2014 Eliasson was the recipient of the 40th Anniversary Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts at MIT. During his residence at MIT, Eliasson worked with students to further improve and develop Little Sun. Sales of Little Sun in developed countries underwrite a lower sales price in developing countries.

Little Sun was installed at the MIT Museum for the MIT Energy Club’s public event, Energy Night 2013.

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Fighting Malaria: Understanding the Biomechanical Properties of Red Blood Cells

The Nanomechanics Laboratory investigates mechanical properties of engineered and biological materials at the nano to macro-scale using experimental, analytical, and computational techniques. The group's research projects include studies of nanostructured materials as well as exploring connections between biological cell mechanics and human disease states. This installation focused on pioneering research studies on malaria.


Slide Rules and the Making of the Modern World

Is a mahogany slide rule in a leather holster case retro chic or just dull?

At MIT a lot of people (of a certain age!) love their slipsticks. In fact, the slide rule is still the iconic, archetypal instrument of engineers even if most use calculators or computers to do their work today.

There was a time however, when either you knew how to use it or you didn’t. If you did, you could make things bigger, faster, stronger. You could make things that had never existed before. Look around you. If the things you see were designed before the mid-1970s, then it is almost guaranteed someone used a slide rule to design them. Simply put, the slide rule is one of the most important technological instruments of the 20th century that has never been studied, written about or presented in any significant manner to a general audience.

For the first time, the MIT Museum exhibited the Keuffel & Esser Company Slide Rule Collection, one of the world’s finest, encompassing everything from the Beatley I-Q rule (used by New York City school psychologists) and braille rule (used by an engineer who lost his sight in World War II) to the most classic engineering rules of all time. You don't have to know a single thing about trigonometry or calculus to appreciate the ingenious design of these instruments, and how important they have been to history. And of course, if you do know a thing or two about how to use a slide rule, we imagine you will still be surprised and fascinated by the variety and purposes of the slide rules on display.

The MIT Museum gratefully acknowledges the family and friends of Alfred E. Busch for their generous donations in support of this exhibition. Additional support has been provided by The Oughtred Society, which is dedicated to the preservation and history of slide rules and other calculating instruments.

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Climate Collaboratorium

The Climate Collaboratorium is perhaps best thought of as a global conference in which everyone’s research on climate change is accessible and made ready for discussion.

The goal is to better facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration not just among scientists and policy makers, but also among ordinary citizens—the many people “on the ground” being most affected by changes to their environment.

Contributor: Thomas Malone, founder and director, MIT Center for Collective Intelligence, and Patrick J. McGovern Professor of Management, Sloan School of Management.


Nanotechnologies for Better Living

This installation explored the beginning of an exciting new field of applied science.

Imaginative MIT scientists are taking the microscopic properties of molecules to create larger-than-life consumer goods that will change the way we live. A battery built by a virus might power electronic gadgets, or even transportation systems. Forget pills: drug release systems implanted in the human body, using advances in nanoengineering and biology, will keep us healthier than ever.

Contributors: Professor Paula Hammond and students of the Hammond Lab, Chemistry Department; Professor of Biological Engineering and Material Science and Engineering Angela Belcher, Department of Materials Science and Engineering.


HoloPod Camera

As part of their graduate studies, MIT students collaborated with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) to create a HoloPod imaging system that museum visitors can experiment with. This camera is a unique modification of an experimental oceanographic instrument used to study the tiny but hugely important life cycles of plankton, the critical base of the marine food chain.

Contributors: MIT Mechanical Engineering Professor George Barbastathis; Dr. Cabell Davis, WHOI Senior Scientist; MIT-WHOI Joint Program in Oceanography/Applied Ocean Science and Engineering

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HoloPod imaging system


Brain Imaging

At the Martinos Imaging Center at MIT, the advancement of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technology and brain research proceed hand-in-hand, focusing on topics such as how memories are developed in childhood, and what happens in the brain when we make moral judgments. Using the red telephone on display, museum visitors could sign up to participate in research at the Martinos Imaging Center.

Contributors: Nancy Kanwisher, Ellen Swallow Richards Professor, Deptartment of Brain and Cognitive Sciences; Rebecca Saxe, Assistant Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience; John Gabrieli, Director of the Martinos Imaging Center