Tag Archives: MIT

Nate Fox, MIT President

Getting into MIT is a pretty impressive accomplishment.

But thousands of students do it.

Only one can be president of the class, though.

Nate Fox has been elected 3 times.

Nate — now a senior — has long been destined for success. At Staples he was a self-described “math and science geek.” He starred on the math and robotics teams, but also enjoyed being part of a broader community.

“It’s an awesome place,” he says of the high school from which he graduated in 2008. “There’s something for everyone. No matter how you want to get involved — sports, drama, radio — you can.”

Nate Fox, pitching one of his many ideas.

Nate calls MIT “the next logical step.” From his Lego days on, he liked inventing and creating new things. “Math and science have power to impact people’s lives,” he explains.

He finds MIT to be — like Staples — “an amazing place. There’s intense intellectual curiosity and rigor. Everyone asks questions, and everyone tries to find answers.”

The school offers world-class professors, funding for research, and an environment in which “really cool ideas can grow.”

Though Nate loved physics at Staples, he found the MIT program too theoretical for his tastes. “Studying black holes is really important,” he says. “But for me, I want to effect the world more immediately.”

He went into mechanical engineering. A toy product design class satisfied his “childlike passion” for creating. “People do this for a living?!” he asked.

To complement the project-based, hands-on engineering curriculum he took marketing and business classes at MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

His first internship, after sophomore year, came in the product development group at Volkswagen. He learned a lot, then did a winter internship at Continuum, a design and innovation consultancy. “That was a fun, wacky place,” Nate reports. MBAs mixed right in with English, anthropology and engineering majors.

Those work experiences reinforced Nate’s desire to work in product design. Now he’s landed a job with Microsoft as an associate product manager. Starting this summer he’ll work in the Seattle-based Windows business group, examining product development, marketing and finance.

With a job with Microsoft already set after college, Nate Fox is on top of the world.

Now, about that MIT class presidency…

As a sophomore Nate ran against the incumbent, and won. He’s been re-elected ever since, based on his focus of getting more back for the class’ budget bucks.

As president, he’ll speak at graduation.

“It’s an incredible honor,” he says. Realizing that commencement speeches are filled with cliches, and that “it’s hard for a 21-year-old to be profound,” Nate plans to focus on what makes his class happy, what drives them, and what makes them who they are.

“We go through life trudging along,” he notes. “But every day is a gift. We really need to make the most of it.”

As Nate Fox clearly already has.

A House Of Cards

Among the many difficult classes at MIT:  toy design.

Seriously.

“It seems silly,” admits Nate Fox, a 2008 Staples grad now majoring in mechanical engineering.

Nate Fox pitches his idea.

“But toy product design involves really interesting challenges.  Toys have to be dirt cheap to make.  They have to be safe and functional.  And they have to work, look good, and be fun to play with.”

I’m exhausted just thinking about toys.

In Nate’s toy design class, students did lots of brainstorming.  They plastered Post-It notes all over the place.

Voilà!  A new toy idea was born.

Nate and an MIT friend, Michael Lo — who grew up in Stamford but competed for the Saugatuck Rowing Club — took the simple idea of card houses, and made it marketable.

Little kids love building houses of cards.  The problem, of course, is that they fall down with spectacular regularity.

Cardigo allows kids to express your innovation using common household objects.  A small plastic clip holds cards together, enabling construction of large, complex structures out of index, business playing cards — or anything else that fits into the clip.

A Cardigo castle

Nate and Mike’s clip enables cards to be used to construct castles, hats, abstract shapes — you name it, kids can build it.

It’s a lighter, more flexible Lego.  Of course, it’s nowhere near as popular as Legos — at least, not yet.

To help reach Lego territory, Nate and Mike turned to Kickstarter.  The innovative website links people with an idea — for a toy, a movie, a non-profit foundation, whatever — and folks who want to fund it.

The site shows how much is needed (in Cardigo’s case, $18,000 for custom molds, manufacturing costs and legal work, among others).  Various donation levels earn different rewards (special Cardigo cards, sponsor t-shirts, etc.).  A deadline is set; pledges are collected only if the entire goal is reached.

Nate and Mike also sell their product directly, through the Kickstarter site.

So far, they’re over 10 percent there.

Their project “really encourages out-of-the-box thinking,” Nate says, in full funding-seeking mode.  He’s gained experience in that aspect of toy-making, having already pitched to the MIT community, toy blogs, “mom” blogs, and online design communities.

“Making card houses can be tedious and frustrating,” he notes.  “This makes it easy and fun.  It’s great for kids who are very tactile, and like to build things.  It’s very educational, very spatial.”

Like their target market, Nate and Mike use their hands as well as their brains.

Leave it to a pair of MIT engineers to make money off a house of cards.