Replicating MIT’s Toy Product Design course
After deciding to stay to teach for five months, Brooks drew upon his experiences in mechanical engineering classes at MIT. He saw an opportunity to replicate class 2.00b (Toy Product Design), when teaching middle school and high school students. Offered to MIT’s first-year students each spring, the class introduces students to product design and the product development process. By the end of the semester, students present a working prototype of a toy.
The first half of the semester, Brooks taught students basic, hands-on engineering skills. He utilized some of the slides developed by Professor David Wallace and Lecturer Joshua Ramos for the class.
“It was amazing to explain what engineering was to these kids and to see that they fell in love with it,” says Brooks.
For the second half of the semester, students pitched toy product ideas. Much like in 2.00b, students would start with dozens of ideas, sketch out the concepts, and narrow it down to the top three. They then built prototypes for the younger children at the orphanage to test out.
While MIT students in 2.00b have access to machinery, electronics, and various materials on campus, Brooks had to make the class work with cardboard, paper, and glue sticks. These limited resources didn’t stifle students’ creativity.
Brooks was inspired by the prototypes students developed by the end of the semester. Projects included a “Live Action FIFA” soccer game and “Mad Ball,” which resembled a typical pinball game. The games were so popular, the younger children at the orphanage played them during Brooks’ going away party.
How to live life a better way
As his time in Haiti came to a close last winter, Brooks reflected on how life-altering the experience was. When he first arrived in Port-au-Prince, he was struggling with what he wanted to do with his life and grappling with his own mental health and happiness.
Seeing how happy the children at Have Faith Haiti were with so few material goods or the comforts he had grown accustomed to gave Brooks an education in happiness.
“I think going there taught me a lot about how to be happy and how to deal with mental health,” he says. “These kids have nothing and they were happier than I was. I really learned just how to live life a better way.”
As he enters in final year at MIT, Brooks is now exploring career paths in teaching. He recently applied to graduate school programs for a master’s in education with a specialization in teaching in the inner city.
Wherever his career takes him, Brooks knows he will find a path back to Haiti someday.
“There is no question I will go back to visit, hopefully someday soon. These people became my friends and family for six months, and the impact they had on my life can’t be overstated,” he adds.