Manos Chaniotakis, Ph.D.


Science, engineering, innovation, education, teaching, learning.

These are the words that describe my professional life. I have always wanted to find ways to describe concepts and things so that people can easily understand them.

I realized early in my life that, as has been attributed to Einstein, “If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough.” And so I became a scientist to understand it well enough and an engineer to explain it simply.

It started with a question

When I was 13 years old, my grandfather asked me:
“Manos, why is the earth round?” He did not question the fact that the earth was round, he just wanted to know why.

I thought I knew how to explain it, but every time I tried there was something that I could not get across. It was a big challenge for me. It took many years to be able to explain this effectively to my grandfather, who did not have a formal education. I had to adapt my explanation to his knowledge. This experience shaped my life and laid the foundation for my education and professional career.

Explaining a concept “simply” to my grandfather is not the same as explaining the same concept “simply” to someone with a different level of knowledge. In a classroom, explaining a concept simply and effectively to one student may not be a simple and effective explanation for another student. Learning involves assembling knowledge from your own experiences and cognitive paths. This is the challenge that I have undertaken as a teacher and as an innovator in science and engineering education.

Road to MIT

Many students struggle in school either because they do not have an understanding of the fundamental concepts or because they do not know how to go about assembling their knowledge to solve a given problem. There are many reasons for this, but it fundamentally starts with lack of engagement. If students are not engaged then learning becomes difficult.

Imagine what you could do as a teacher if the curriculum you use provides you with all the tools you need to enhance the learning experience for every student in your classroom. When I started teaching electronics at MIT, I developed such a curriculum. It took considerable effort and required modifying and bringing together technologies that were traditionally used in other areas of science and engineering. By integrating these technologies together, I created a curriculum that gives students both the opportunity and the tools to enhance academic rigor and also to deepen their fundamental understanding of the subject.

To create the educational tools I envisioned, I recognized the importance of partnering with industry. By partnering with the right companies, I could leverage powerful existing technologies for my educational purpose. That was when I began a partnership with National Instruments Corporation to use the LabVIEW technology in my MIT classroom. LabVIEW is National Instrument's professional data acquisition, control, and simulation software. Using LabVIEW I was able to create lessons and investigations allowing students to explore the course concepts at various levels of interactivity. For example, when we study the science of waves, students do more than learn the mathematics of sine waves. They interact with simulations and construct experiments to gather and analyze data that are directly related to the topic. Analyzing a sound signal using mathematics, listening to a sound and “looking” at the sound provide a multimodal approach to learning. Each approach enhances the learning value of the others, deepening understanding for all students.

Ergopedia: the future of learning

The ideas, the educational approach, and many of the tools that I developed at MIT are now used to develop educational technologies and curricula for high school science and engineering education. While I was developing and testing these innovative learning technologies at MIT, my colleague and friend Tom Hsu was building CPO Science, a company that created and successfully introduced into the market a number of innovative science and engineering curricula.

In 2004, Tom and I formed Ergopedia to bring science and engineering education to the next level.

Our learning system engages students and provides teachers with the tools they need to become effective in their classrooms. Our collective challenge is to improve science and engineering education; I believe that the learning systems we are creating will meet this challenge.