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

Thanksgiving

first_imgAhhhhh, Thanksgiving!  A sport-loving man’s favorite day!  What could be better–a hardy meal with 5 or 6 football games to watch after you stuff yourself with turkey and all the trimmings?  This is great, right?  Oh, you are the lady of the house, and you don’t see it quite the same as your husband!  Just maybe he could take the kids outside and run some energy off of them while you clean up after the meal.  Or better yet, he and the kids could help mom clean up so that all can sit down and relax or go out and have some fun.  If you are the mom, you might even say “how about dad and the kids cleaning up this one time?”  Oh, come on, we all know that on Thanksgiving everybody likes the turkey and all of its trimmings, and I suppose, most people don’t begrudge watching a game or maybe two.  I do find it hard, however, even as much as I like sports, to believe that the TV is the man’s possession and the kitchen is his wife’s.  Come on, guys, give your wife a break.  Happy Thanksgiving!last_img read more

Federer, Nadal Renew Rivalry in Dream Final

first_imgAs Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal won match after match at the Australian Open, making their unlikely way through opposite sides of the draw, tennis fans couldn’t help but look ahead. Could the two old rivals, almost six years on from their last meeting in a Grand Slam final, possibly meet for one more match for the ages in Melbourne?Federer and Nadal each had to survive epic five-set matches in the semifinals, but they did not disappoint. And now, the dream final tennis fans had hoped for when favorites Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic were upset in the first week is going to happen today Rod Laver Arena. What’s at stake is bigger than just Federer-Nadal XXXV, or even the Australian Open title. There’s also history to play for: If Federer wins, he’ll add an 18th Grand Slam trophy to his career record total, putting distance between himself and his rivals. If Nadal wins his 15th, he’ll pass Pete Sampras for sole possession of second place on the all-time list, and pull tantalizingly close to Federer’s 17.‘’The historical context of that match, whether it becomes 17-15 with the French Open next, or 18-14, that’s such a big difference in the historical march for both those guys,’’ former U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick told The Associated Press in Melbourne a few days ago. ‘’That might be, as far as history goes, the biggest match ever in Australian Open history and maybe Grand Slam history. What’s at stake there is beyond what pretty much any player can comprehend.’’The magnitude of the moment is not lost on the players themselves. ‘’Rafa’s definitely presented me with the biggest challenge in the game,’’ Federer said after his semifinal win over U.S. Open champion Stan Wawrinka. ‘’I’m happy we’ve had some epic, epic battles over the years, and of course, it would be unreal to play here.’’Nadal said neither player could have imagined making the final of the year’s first Grand Slam after coming back from their respective injuries in 2016 – Federer, his knee; Nadal, his wrist.Both men took time off last season and had difficult draws in Melbourne because of their lower rankings.‘’For me, it’s a privilege,’’ Nadal said. ‘’It’s a very, very special thing, I think, for both of us to be in the final of a major again, have another chance to compete against each other after a couple of years having some problems.’’Nadal has dominated Federer in their head-to-head match-ups – he has a 23-11 record overall and has won nine of their 11 matches in Grand Slams.But Federer likes his chances on the hard courts at the Australian Open this year – he believes they are playing faster than in years past, which suits his game better than Nadal’s.Federer should also be fresher for the final, having spent far less time on court than Nadal during the tournament (13 hours, 40 minutes vs. 19 hours) and having an extra day to rest in between the semifinal and final. Both men have survived two five-setters, but Nadal’s were far longer and more draining.Federer may also have the edge confidence-wise. Nadal’s results have dipped dramatically in recent years and he’s struggled to play well against the top players. He hasn’t been past the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam since the 2014 French Open, also the last major he won.Nadal, though, remains one of the fittest players in the game and is certainly hungry for major success again after years of disappointing losses.Whoever wins, the match is sure to be memorable. A massive crowd is likely at Melbourne Park, as well, after organizers decided to open the 7,500-seat Margaret Court Arena for fans to watch the match on a giant screen.‘’I just know that two of the greatest players of tennis are going to square off on Sunday,’’ Grigor Dimitrov said after his nearly five-hour loss to Nadal in the semifinals. ‘’And it’s going to be (an) amazing match.’’Share this:FacebookRedditTwitterPrintPinterestEmailWhatsAppSkypeLinkedInTumblrPocketTelegramlast_img read more

Steve Rowan, 54, Wellington: Dec. 17, 1959 – April 8, 2014

first_imgSteve RowanSteve Rowan, 54, of Wellington, died Tuesday, April 8, 2014, at the Golden Living Center in Wellington.Funeral Services will be held at 2 p.m., Friday, April 11, 2014 at the St. John’s Lutheran Church in Wellington. Visitation will be Thursday, April 10, 2014 from 9 a.m., until 8 p.m. Burial will be at the Sumner Memorial Gardens Cemetery in Wellington. A memorial has been established with the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital and may be left with the Shelley Family Funeral Home. For further information please visit www.shelleyfamilyfh.com.Steve was born December 17, 1959 the son of Eugene and Dorothy (Bunch) Rowan in Wellington, Kansas. He graduated from Wellington High School in 1977 and was a Wichita State University Graduate. Steve was a pharmaceutical sales rep working for GlaxcoSmithKline, he enjoyed his work. Steve’s hobbies included, golfing and Wichita State Sports. Steve also enjoyed watching both of his children’s sporting activities.Steve is survived by his mother, Dorothy Rowan of Wellington; a son, Samuel Rowan of Ellicott City, MD and a daughter, Gabrielle Rowan of Ellicott City, MD; aunts, Lela Fowler of Blackwell, OK, Betty Day of Braman, OK, and his uncle, Alan Rowan of Wichita, KS; cousins, Fred Fowler of Houston, Texas, Rick Rowan of Oklahoma City, Okla., Dwight Rowan of Wellington, Craig Day of Braman, OK, and Mindy Evans of Clearwater.He is preceded in death by his father, Eugene Rowan in 1994.last_img read more