Designing in the human context

first_imgThat particular Monday morning began with a deceptively simple direction: “Focus on one person, and stay in a straight line with them, while remaining within the bounds of the circle.”A frenzy of movement and laughter ensued, and each iteration of this team-building activity ended in a comical confrontation between two people — just as likely roommates as a professor-student pair. More than just an icebreaker, though, the scene was a primer in human dynamics: a first lesson in engineering design.For a week in January, 40 students from a variety of backgrounds — comparative literature to computer science — engaged in a “design thinking” workshop led by IDEO, an internationally renowned design consulting firm. Throughout, the human element was key — How do people actually use a product? — as was a certain amount of ad-libbed fun.By midweek, the second-floor conference room of Maxwell Dworkin looked as though it had been hit by a tornado. Sticky notes covered the walls and dry erase boards, scattered with phrases, concepts, and ideas: “Huge!,” “Turtle backpack,” “Imagination pod,” “Mentor program,” “Kung fu video,” and more. Glue guns, markers, and poster board littered the floor; spaghetti and tape spilled into the adjacent lounge.The course, “jDesign,” was among many programs available to students during Optional Winter Activities Week, the jam-packed conclusion to Winter Break at the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).“Design is about making decisions, often in the face of uncertainty.”“JDesign” was spearheaded by Gu-Yeon Wei, Gordon McKay Professor of Electrical Engineering and associate dean for academic programs at SEAS, with support from Joseph Zinter, a former design preceptor at SEAS (now at Yale University).“Design is about making decisions, often in the face of uncertainty,” Zinter said. “It’s like running a race where the course keeps splitting. Each fork is a decision.”“The good designer adheres to a process — a set of tools and techniques that guides them in the decision-making process,” Zinter said. “JDesign is about teaching those tools and techniques.”Students were assigned to seven groups and asked to create and present a “starter kit” for a person with some goal. One group decided to make a toolbox for a high school graduate transitioning to college; another designed items that the homeless of Harvard Square could use to stay warm during harsh winters. Throughout the design process, each team was urged to consider human factors; one team devised a lovable stuffed turtle to help an overwhelmed sophomore select a concentration at Harvard.Intertwined with formal presentations by IDEO on topics such as human-centered design and visual thinking were brainstorming sessions, role-playing games, construction projects, and man-on-the-street interviews.Siyabulela Xuza ’12, a South African student who participated in the course, noted the impact that the workshops had on him as an aspiring engineer.“Academically, it’s given me a paradigm shift,” he said. “I’ve been given tools to know how to approach problems by considering human factors — putting humans at the center, and also really asking myself questions about the day-to-day things that we do.”“I came in here thinking that I knew how to design on the world, imposing solutions,” Xuza added, “but learning about humans throughout the design process taught me how to design in the world.”Emi Nietfeld ’15, a freshman with an artistic background, particularly enjoyed the opportunity to program using Arduino, a hardware-software combination designed for people at all skill levels.“It was awesome to see that there’s this whole world out there just meant to empower people to build stuff,” she said. “I really like that we had ideas and made them right away.”The workshop was led by David Goligorsky and other IDEO employees and facilitated by graduate students from SEAS and the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). The faculty and facilitators integrated seamlessly into the design teams, learning just as much from their energetic teammates as they contributed in expertise.Wei hopes that the inaugural workshop will continue to inspire “channeled innovation” in the students who participated.“I was really impressed by the creativity and the energy,” he said. “Everyone evolved throughout the week from what they thought they were going to work on, on day one, to what they actually ended up working on and presenting on day five. I’m hoping we can all take what we learned throughout this week and apply it to what we do, whether it be research, whether it be courses, [or] continuing on to design new projects.”The workshop pushed beyond the traditional perception of engineering as a math-centric, technical domain, emphasizing that effective engineering design is informed by (and resides within) the context of the humanities and social sciences.Said Nietfeld: “There’s the product side of things, and there’s the story side of things, and we did both [during jDesign], but the story was so important. You could’ve had a loaf of bread, and if you told the right story about it, everybody would be like, ‘Oh my God, that’s so cool — it’s a loaf of bread!’”“For an engineering program, jDesign was pretty progressive,” said Zinter. “SEAS is pushing hard against the conventional engineering paradigm, and that’s pretty rad.”Besides Wei, Zinter, and Goligorsky, major contributors to the course were Brad Crane (GSD/IDEO), Jawn Lim (GSD), Faye Hayes (GSD), Nathan King (GSD), Avi Uttamchandani (design preceptor at SEAS), Conor Walsh (assistant professor of mechanical and biomedical engineering at SEAS), and Beth Altringer (visiting lecturer on innovation and behavior at SEAS).The course was supported by the Harvard President’s January Innovation Fund for Faculty. <a href=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2D0KSARstA” rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”> <img src=”https://img.youtube.com/vi/S2D0KSARstA/0.jpg” alt=”0″ title=”How To Choose The Correct Channel Type For Your Video Content ” /> </a>last_img read more

Talk Back discusses crisis in Crimea

first_imgStudents and panelists gathered for the semester’s fourth installment of “Students Talk Back: A Politics and Public Policy Forum,” to discuss Russia’s recent efforts to annex the Crimea region of Ukraine and the role of U.S.  diplomacy in the conflict. The Students Talk Back series is a semimonthly forum presented in partnership with the Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Science’s Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics, the College Democrats, the College Republicans and the Daily Trojan.The theme for the discussion was “The Crisis in Ukraine: Is US/European Diplomacy Enough?”The forum was moderated by Yasmeen Serhan, editorial director of the Daily Trojan, and Kerstyn Olson, interim director of the Unruh Institute.Olson began by stressing the importance of geopolitical issues for students in California who will soon be voting in midterm and national elections.“Given that we are living in a very tried-and-true blue state, I think it’s important — especially in a midterm election year — for USC students to not only think about issues that are of great import to California voters, but what will be important to voters in the so-called swing states,” Olson said. “Foreign policy is, of course, of incredible importance to all voters.”The moderators were joined on the panel by Rod Pacheco, a former state assemblyman and former district attorney of Riverside; Paul Feldman, an assistant foreign editor at the Los Angeles Times, and students Jessica Blakely and Shikhar Gupta.The first topic of discussion dealt with the legality of the Crimean referendum, which, if approved, will potentially allow the Crimea region of Ukraine to become part of Russia.“They don’t have a constitution that allows them to do this,” Pacheco said. “If there was a legal basis for the move, then Putin, Russia et. al. would have offered it, and the fact that they haven’t means they don’t have one.”For Feldman, who has been with the Los Angeles Times for more than three decades, the lack of a legal basis is less important because no one will enforce it.“It’s an issue more about real politics than legal basis, because there is no one that is going to be enforcing legal basis anyways,” he said. “It does appear right now that whatever happens, whoever puts up a fuss about the legal basis part probably is not going to get very far.”Blakely, a senior majoring in international relations and global health, agreed.“Paying attention to what the international law would say might not be one of Putin’s priorities either,” she said.Gupta, a sophomore majoring in international relations, provided some historical background for the audience members less familiar with the crisis.“[Ukraine] has historically been a part of various nations, empires, kingdoms and what not,” he said.Citing the transfer of Crimea to Ukraine by then-First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Kruschev in 1954, Gupta discussed the resulting implication: Nearly 60 percent of Crimeans identify as Russian.Pacheco, however, stressed the importance of Crimea as a military outpost.“This is a very important strategic base for Russia — they have a major naval facility there, it is a warm water port, they can reach any point in the Middle East, anywhere throughout the Mediterranean,” he said. “That was the basis for them invading in the first place under Peter the Great.”While the first half of the discussion focused on questions from the moderators, during the second half, audience members were invited to ask questions of the panelists.Luke Phillips, a sophomore majoring in international relations, commented on the implications of the Ukraine crisis for the future of U.S. foreign policy.“There is going to be a seat change in U.S. politics within the next decade, and I don’t think it’s going to come with a change in the administration,” Phillips said.The next Students Talk Back is Wednesday, March 26, in the Forum at the Ronald Tutor Campus Center.last_img read more

Leicester players gifted £32k Mercs as thanks for landing Premier League title

first_img1 Leicester owner Srivaddhanaprabha arrives at a restaurant in Leicester to celebrate the title Leicester City’s generous Thai owners will buy every member of the Premier League title-winning squad a £32,000 Mercedes as a thank you for their incredible efforts over the past nine months.Thrilled at the Foxes’ historic championship victory, the 30-man squad will each receive the car from generous owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – at a cost of £960,000. Tottenham’s draw with Chelsea on Monday night put the East Midlands club in an unassailable position at the top of the table and secured the most unlikely of titles. And the 30 B-Class Electric Drive Mercs will be rolling up the driveways of the players in the coming weeks. The near-£1million gesture is a drop in ocean for owner Srivaddhanaprabha, who is worth an estimated £2billion. The Srivaddhanaprabha family amassed their wealth through their travel retail operation – mainly duty free outlets in South East Asia. Leicester have won the league with two games remaining and they will lift the trophy after the match with Everton at the weekend.last_img read more