Although it is important to teach the inhabitants of developing
countries about new designs and good design practices, it is also
very important to expose young, talented designers on to the challenges
that face most of the world.
One of the more amazing opportunities I have had was creating and
teaching a class at Stanford
University, "Design for Appropriate Technology" (ME
128/328). 18 students in the Mechanical Engineering department took
this 3-credit course as a free elective. During the 10-week course,
the students attended one classroom session, one discussion session,
and one lab session per week.
The students talked to local recent immigrants and overseas contacts
to try to gain an understanding of the hardships and challenges
of life in a developing country. They supplemented this with web-based
research, and uncovered needs that had not previously been addressed.
In teams, the students presented and critiqued each other's needs,
and refined them into need statements. They then designed and built
prototypes of their proposed solutions, presented them to the class,
and critiqued them.