Students develop wearable pollution sensor in Paris with Plume Labs
Photo © 2016 Lillie Paquette / MIT School of Engineering

MechE majors Annie Dai '18 and Carrington Motley '16 explored product design and development to help combat air pollution around the world

This past summer, senior Carrington Motley and sophomore Annie Dai found themselves in a centuries-old city facing a modern problem: pollution. Both MechE majors, they were interns at Plume Labs, a Paris-based startup founded by MIT alumnus Romain Lacombe. Since 2015, Plume Labs has sought to combat air pollution by providing tools and data to the general public, thereby empowering citizens to protect themselves and others. Carrington and Annie brought their technical knowledge and interdisciplinary interests to the table in order to fulfill this mission.

A collaborative process

Although both are MechE majors, Carrington and Annie worked on different projects throughout the summer. Carrington was put in charge of building a database of all things concerning the fluid dynamics of particulate matter (PM) in the sensor, which would be part of Plume’s signature wearable device. The alpha prototype would be ready by fall 2016. On the other side, Annie worked on integrating hardware and electronic components of the prototype. She relied on user research and industrial design work, and also got to travel to London for part of the development process.

The freedom to be creative

Regardless of their varying roles, each student drew upon their MIT background – and also learned a lot in the process. “This internship was able to confirm my love for the intersection of engineering and design,” Annie explains. She has also developed much more confidence in her ability to overcome all nature of challenges. Carrington found excitement and joy in the experience: “I was amazed at how much freedom and responsibility I was given so quickly,” he notes. “I subsequently learned that I thrive in the environment where I am given space […] to be creative.”

A lasting connection

Armed with their new discoveries, Annie and Carrington are looking forward to their next steps. Will their plans include Plume Labs? “I’ll definitely be in touch with Plume in the future,” Annie asserted. Carrington echoes that sentiment, and hopes to return to Plume for future work. “Through the countless novel experiences I have had here, I have met some truly incredible people,” he adds, “and forged what I am sure to be a lasting relationship with industry in Europe.”

As a graduating senior MISTI-France has been a fantastic gateway into beginning a post-undergraduate career. - Carrington Motley '16

  • France
  • Internship
  • MechE