How can I make my engineering experience as effective as MIT
I can’t speak as much to the calculous and engineering formulas. But certainly those seem to be going online at a faster rate–particularly at MIT where that is a priority of the teachers and administration (including the Open Courseware initiatives, MITx, and perhaps even Coursera over the longer term).
Unquenchable thirst. Have an unquenchable thirst for questions, solutions, and improving your problem-solving skills through your projects.
Be fearless. People without courage or without the force of will to do something despite the fear (i.e. potential harm to personal egos) aren’t going to make engineers who do much. Especially if you’re coming from scrappy origins (ie not MIT ones and the ones it sounds like you’re coming from–I put myself in that group too).
Attitude of humility. Fearless on the one hand and a kind of thunder-lizard mentality about getting things done–but recognizing that books and you don’t hold all the answers–that your customers experience, assumptions, and daily life is a key part of the design and engineering process.
Attentiveness to opportunity. Attentiveness to customers in relationships, interviews, and observations. Attentiveness to micro and macro. Attentiveness to both detail and systems.
Three other opportunities:
Build and Try. Continue to tinker and build projects.
Community. Over the longer term it would help to find the tribe of makers, doers, builders, and entrepreneurs near you and form relationships and collaborations with them. This will provide the opportunity for you
Reverse Engineer. You could reverse engineer some of their readings (ie course syllabi are available) and reverse engineer some of their projects.