Discovering Product Design
It was a lot of fun and a great experience. This was actually the first year that this program existed. It was well worth the $200 I paid for it. The program did not fit neatly into a department, but rather connects different departments.
The project was the least helpful part. We made a ruler in the shape of the MIT logo out of acrylic plastic. The project was to make something which could be sold at the COOP (the school store). Our project actually started out way cooler. It would snap into one big piece of acrylic and would hand on your wall like an art piece. We even tested the different tolerances of plastic to find the perfect fit. We used SolidWorks to design the pieces, however we were not allowed to see the pieces being cut. It was a good experience to get a taste of SolidWorks and working within constraints. (I need to add some pictures of the original design). I just wish the constraints were clearer upfront.
One of the most useful parts of the program was discovering all of the different fabrication labs at MIT, some of which are open to students. We visited the Lab for Manufacturing and Productivity, the Hobby Shop, and the Edgerton Center. Students can visit some of these resources if they pay a small fee, or wait on a waiting list. Others are only accessible to people on UROPs.
We also heard lots of advice from upperclassmen as the semester went on. It was good to have a leg up on the other students who were arriving soon.
Exploring the Area
We also explored the Cambridge and Boston area. We visited restaurant and design firm owners. One of my favorites was Altitude, a product design firm. They design products for companies. One of my favorites is their Jimmy Buffet Margerita mixer. They do everything from the mechanical design to the industrial design to make it easy to use and stand out on the shelf.
We also had the opportunity to eat lunch with Jeff Lieberman, the star of Time Warp on the Discovery Channel. It was an awesome experience to be able to talk with him about the show and his other interests. Jeff had 4 degrees from MIT  and Jeff recently dropped out of the Media Lab to work on the show full time.