An MIT Alumni Association Publication

Driven by curiosity, Jessica Banks SM ’01, ENG ’07 went from studying physics to robotics to running her own furniture company; today, she is best known for hosting Hack My Home, a home renovation reality show on Netflix, which launched in 2023.

Banks hopes her unusual career path can be inspiring—especially for little girls who might watch the show. “Be anything that you want,” she says. “Think without boundaries.”

Banks has dyslexia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but she says her neurological differences have been assets in some ways. Her type of dyslexia along with her particular eye structure have literally enabled her to see things differently. And ADHD, she says, spurs her to keep taking on exciting new projects. “My lifestyle is a symptom of, probably, how my brain is built,” she says.

One exciting project was going to MIT—though her inspiration came by chance. She studied physics at the University of Michigan but was working as an assistant on a sitcom in Hollywood when she found new inspiration. She saw the movie Fast, Cheap & Out of Control and was “blown away” by the robotics.

“I thought: Robotics is a combination of art and physics and sculpture, all the things that I was interested in,” she says. “Less than a year later, I was at MIT in the humanoid robotics group.”

At MIT, Banks discovered the machine shop and learned how to build things. “I started to feel very empowered about my abilities,” she says. She gained additional design skills by working at an art and technology center after graduation. Then, in 2014, she founded her furniture company, RockPaperRobot, which makes levitating tables, floating shelves, and shape-shifting chairs. (To see examples, watch the video.)

“I wanted people to really feel like magicians—like, ‘Abracadabra, I just made a chair,’” she says. “I wanted to inspire the sense of wonder and curiosity.”

Her designs caught the attention of Netflix, which invited her to co-host Hack My Home. The reality show features design, engineering, and construction experts who team up to help homeowners maximize their use of space. The show began airing last summer.

“I hope people come away from this show with a new sense of flexibility of thinking. I want them to look around their homes and think about how to use space,” Banks says.

Banks also hopes the show inspires people to embrace creative problem-solving and pursue careers in science, technology, and engineering. “That’s a huge motivation for me,” she says.

Learn more about Banks in this MITAA video.