Woodie C. Flowers SM ’68, ME ’71, PhD ’73
Pappalardo Professor of Mechanical Engineering, emeritus

Woodie C. Flowers is the Pappalardo professor of mechanical engineering emeritus at MIT and the creator of the wildly popular robotic design competition that started in the MIT class Introduction to Design 2.70 (now 2.007). In this competition, students are given kits of various parts and work in teams to make small robots that compete against each other before a live audience at the end of the semester. The 2.007 competition quickly became a major phenomenon at MIT and has inspired many similar ones around the country and the world. Professor Flowers was widely recognized for his innovative teaching methods and among other honors, was named a MacVicar Faculty Fellow for extraordinary contributions to undergraduate education. His research interests include design education, microcomputer-controlled prostheses for above-knee amputees, instrumentation for quantitative assessment of human movement disorders, computer-aided design systems, and product design.

Highlights of this interview include:

  • Childhood spent fixing cars, building model rockets, and tinkering with designs for new inventions.
  • Creation and evolution of the annual robotics competition.
  • Co-founder of FIRST, an organization working to inspire children to pursue careers in engineering and technology.
  • Importance of hands-on education strategies and efforts to use these techniques in his classroom.