MIT Mobius for Makers
"We need an easy way for students to find labs on campus that contain the equipment they need for projects"
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology occupies an enormous stretch of Cambridge, containing a number of off-campus facilities and various consortiums. Project Manus is an MIT organization led by the Make Impact Consortium, dedicated to upgrading and preserving campus makerspaces. There are over 45 of these makerspaces at MIT, containing over 300 different kinds of maker equipment. These facilities are crucial spaces for building, modifying, and prototyping science and technology projects, but students needed an easier way to locate and gain access to them, as well as find out if and when they were available at certain times.
Project Manus and AndPlus teamed up to create Mobius, a mobile-friendly web-based application to simplify makerspace and equipment rental for MIT students. AndPlus built an all-in-one web app to book studio time, show credentials, and pay for services. Rather than call, email, or inquire directly, MIT Mobius allowed students to make appointments easily via an online booking system.
The Mobius web portal gave students the ability to search Project Manus’s database based on machine type, materials needed, and machine capabilities. An interactive map function made it easy for students to use their location to find facilities nearest to them. Facility managers use their own dashboard to maintain information on availability of equipment, which updates automatically to the app. If there was a need for facilities or machines outside of the MIT campus, the app was also able to search globally for available resources.
This framework implemented a Single Sign On authentication, allowing users to simply enter their student ID information to unlock all the app’s features at once. For instance, these machines often require specialized training to operate. AndPlus built a credentials system into the app that displayed a badge on a student’s profile who had passed a training, ensuring they knew how to use the equipment. AndPlus designed this verification process of the Mobius app so when students completed necessary training, their account profile would list their certifications, eliminating the need for administrators to check records.
Additionally, because there are costs associated with using this equipment, AndPlus integrated MIT’s student payment gateway into Mobius. This internal currency, known as TechCash or MakerBucks, could be used to pay for space rental and materials directly within the app. Other credit cards and digital forms of payment are accepted, and students are also able to use the app to read their card balance. With Single Sign On authentication, all of these functions could be accessed with MIT’s student login ID and password.
AndPlus’s multiple web integrations greatly helped Project Manus provide better access to makerspaces for MIT students. Instead of logging into several different applications and making tedious requests to book lab time, MIT Mobius consolidated each individual process and coordinated all important requirements into one unified application, saving staff and students valuable time. Mobius simplified credential verification, enabled fast and easy payments, and most importantly, increased accessibility of equipment for projects.
ABOUT PROJECT MANUS
Project Manus is MIT’s effort to upgrade campus makerspaces and foster student maker communities. Mobius is leading MIT’s efforts to introduce new technologies, foster student maker communities, and collaborate with peer universities, alumni, government & industry.