Taking The Engine for a Test Drive

A group of MIT students gets a look under the hood.


Inventors at MIT have recently unveiled the engine that prioritizes high-impact solutions to big problems over early profits. Now, they are waiting for investors and entrepreneurs from Worldwide to be part of The Engine.

MIT students experienced what it resembles to be inside The Engine’s space in Central Square, near the MIT campus. They were not the part of The Engine’s first cohort of startups, still, they had a chance to warm-up space.

Charlene Xia, recent graduate in mechanical engineering said, “It is exciting to be here. It promotes this productivity in yourself. It feels like a community. Venture capitalists like to meet with us here. Everyone is curious about The Engine.”

Taking The Engine for a Test Drive
Jessica Shi (left) and Charlene Xia from the startup Tactile are working on the first portable real-time text-to-Braille converter.
Photo: Lillie Paquette/School of Engineering

In reality, the engine is an independent, for-profit public benefit corporation outfitted with a $150 million investment fund. Currently, it is digging into discovering groups to help to make a real impact in the world.

Reed Sturtevant, a general partner said, “We want to make it easier and faster to take tough tech ideas and bring them to market. We will absolutely invest in companies that come from a range of places: universities, industry, or even out of someone’s garage. We’re definitely happy to talk to folks.”

The Engine looks to propel information and thus empower innovators. It aligns investors, board, and investment advisory committee members, including business leaders, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and MIT, around a mission.

Astronautics graduate student Andrew Kennedy said, “The Engine wants to help you grow. It’s not like it’s off-limits because you have something that involves a lot of hardware and manual work and will take some time. It’s a welcoming space where you’ll find a lot of ideas flowing.”

Taking The Engine for a Test Drive
Left to right: From startup Rigrade, Achille Verheyen, Ryan Oldja, and Andrew “Kit” Kennedy are working on a robotic system for scaffold construction and performance of simple scaffold-supported tasks.
Photo: Lillie Paquette/School of Engineering

Xia is planning use the machine to prototype Tactile, the first portable real-time text-to-Braille converter.

Xia said, “First, we’ll use the 3-D printer. When we get the look right, we’ll use the lathe to make it. All the stuff we’ve been talking about making can actually get prototyped now!”

Carlos Araque, technical director at The Engine said, “The engine holds the potential to maintain its internal prototyping and lab capabilities. It will provide startups with guidance around technology transfer and product development. In short, We’ve created a place for teams to try out their ideas.”

Throughout next year, Araque expects to be working closely with the first 15 to 30 companies selected by The Engine.

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