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#Education Articles University

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Human factors engineering class tackles design for aging

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 11:00 AM PST

Human Factors Engineering: Designing for the Human, a class offered during MIT's 2018 Independent Activities Period, challenged teams to redesign everyday things for older adults. In a garage-style classroom at MIT's International Design Center (IDC), teams alternated between lectures by experts in human-centered design and human factors, and hackathon-style brainstorming and building in IDC's maker spaces.

Judges of the final projects delivered a tie: team Liftoff's portable, pneumatic, accessible car seat and team SafeSlice's 3-D food-stabilizing cutting board. Other projects included a voice-activated virtual cooking assistant, an app matching skilled older adults with young adults eager to learn, and a home dashboard shared with caregivers and medical experts.

Ben Sawyer, AgeLab researcher and instructor, explains the popularity of the class, "Reviews told us repeatedly that students knew employers wanted this skill set, but they had not had much exposure," says Sawyer. "Human factors gives engineers a recognized tool set through which to understand the population their work will help." SafeSlice's Evan Brown agrees: "These things apply no matter what you're designing."

Liftoff's accessible, portable, USB-chargeable seat was inspired by the team's experiences with their own grandparents. "The first ... problem that came into my mind was standing up," says Amy Umaretiya, a graduate student with MIT's Future of Nuclear Energy group. "The hardest thing ... is developing the idea. When it came together ... we said 'Yes! We found it!'"

Liftoff's USB-chargeable seat allows passengers to easily rotate and boost themselves out of a vehicle. The group consulted grandparents throughout the design process and used task analysis, a technique they learned in the class lectures. "Actually acting it out helps, because you realize you're doing movements you would never have thought of," says Dustin Weigl, a graduate student with MIT's Mobility of the Future group.

SafeSlice's stabilizing cutting board, with a toy-inspired design, went through many iterations. "We started off with a pair of scissors, found there was a lot ... already on the market, and then shifted" says William Li. "We tried to make it as intuitive as possible," says Hannah Hoffmann, graduate student at MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center. Brown thought the human factors and human-centered design concepts from the class would be useful in industry engineering settings: "There's certainly lots of things that I've worked on where you're scratching you're head," says Brown. "Why did someone put this here?"

More information on the teams and class, as well as the winning redesigns can be found on the class website.

Solve announces next global challenges

Posted: 02 Mar 2018 07:00 AM PST

At the March 1 launch event for MIT's Intelligence Quest, MIT Solve Executive Director Alex Amouyel announced Solve's next set of challenges: Coastal Communities, Frontlines of Health, Teachers and Educators, and Work of the Future.

Solve's challenges are open to anyone with a relevant solution and the deadline to submit is July 1. Once the new Solver class is selected in September, Solve will then deploy its global community of private, public, and nonprofit leaders to form partnerships these tech entrepreneurs need to scale their impact.

"These are big challenges — the type that MIT, founded as a school of practical application, of problem-solving, and of real entrepreneurial spirit, has sought to tackle since its inception," said Amouyel. "At Solve, we are opening up the doors of a world-class institution to those without an MIT card — because we believe that talent and ingenuity are everywhere."

Over the past six months, the Solve team has consulted over 500 cross-sector leaders and experts to determine the 2018 challenges. Solve hosted 26 Challenge Design Workshops in eight countries, in locations ranging from Detroit, Standing Rock, Riyadh, London, and Paris, to source insights around the most pressing problems communities around the world are facing today. In the spirit of open innovation, Solve encouraged community members to vote and propose new challenge ideas on the Solve website and in doing so received over 12,000 votes.

The Solve team will be reviewing all of the solutions to decide the next Solver class and will hold Solveathons to help Solve applicants further refine their ideas. Solve's Challenge Leadership Groups, comprising cross-sector leaders and MIT faculty, will select the finalists who will then be invited to Solve Challenge Finals on Sept. 23, 2018 in New York City during UN General Assembly Week and will have the opportunity to pitch their solution for the chance to become a part of the next Solver class.

  1. Coastal Communities: How can coastal communities mitigate and adapt to climate change while developing and prospering?

  2. Frontlines of Health: How can communities invest in frontline
    health workers and services to improve their access to effective and affordable care?

  3. Teachers and Educators: How can teachers and educators provide accessible, personalized, and creative learning experiences for all?    

  4. Work of the Future: How can those left behind by the technology-driven transformations of work create meaningful and prosperous livelihoods for themselves?

Solve is a global community of private, public, and nonprofit leaders accelerating positive impact. Corporates, foundations, investors, and nonprofits interested in supporting the Solver class and joining the community can apply for membership here.