Associate Professor of Applied Design
A member of the Hampshire faculty since 2002, her courses emphasize consideration of practical problems that directly impact communities, paired with hands-on iterative design. Her professional work, personal life and teaching are deeply intertwined. She builds curriculum around design challenges on the Hampshire College campus as well as local community groups. She works with Hampshire Youth Connect, planning and effecting programming to introduce underserved youth to the college experience.
In 2013, she received a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop and field test prototypes of a low-cost pearl millet thresher for use in sub-Saharan Africa. This project evolved out of discussions with a former student then working in Namibia. Cohn brought the project to the 2008 International Design for Development Summit (IDDS) held at M.I.T. and has continued design work over numerous semesters of her Appropriate Technology classes. Documentation of the thresher can be viewed at www.sites.hampshire.edu/pearlmilletthresher.
Her other interests include rearranging and putting things into and onto soil, ecologically sustainable technologies, dogs, cats, and other animals.
We will learn how to build stuff that moves! Using wire, sheetmetal, paper, wood, and a range of other media, we will examine and build mechanisms. We will contemplate the basic ingredients of mechanical forces and motion such as bearings, cams, cranks, gear ratios and more. All levels of experience are welcome, but students should be comfortable using hand tools and able to devote at least 8 hours a week outside of scheduled class time working on projects.
Is it possible to completely eliminate negative environmental impact of the everyday things we buy with careful design? We will learn about where raw materials come from, how they are used in manufacture, and how they are disposed of. We will investigate alternative materials or design approaches that may result in less waste. Students will then choose one consumer product to investigate; how it was made, the source of its components and materials, and what typically happens upon disposal. The final project for the course will be to design a functionally equivalent "no-harm to the environment" version of one or more products researched by students in this class. Students who take this class should be diligent, resourceful researchers, comfortable with the process of making functional objects, and experienced with the process of design.
This course will look at the issues involved with design and fabrication in situations where there are limited resources. Students will engage in the hands-on study and design of technologies considered appropriate for less developed and small-scale local economies. Topics will include water quality, human powered cargo transportation, energy production, food storage and preparation, and wheelchair technologies. We will consider factors that make for successful adoption and widespread use of appropriate technologies
We will learn about some of the practical and ordinary problems faced by individuals who do not have full use of their hands or arms, then design, fabricate and collaboratively design assistive devices. Projects may be for children, or adults with temporary injuries/conditions or ongoing physical disabilities. We will also examine the concept of "Universal Design" - designing in a way that gracefully accommodates the range of human experience. Students in this class will develop problem solving, visual communication skills and a wide range of fabrication skills. There will be opportunities to work with the full range of materials and tools available in the Center for Design shop - such as metals, plastics and basic electronics. The curriculum will include weekly design assignments, guest speakers, readings, film viewings, discussions about the design process itself, as well as a major project.
Design Fundamentals: This is an introductory level design class that will begin with a series of guided activities and culminate in a final independent project. Students will become familiar with a range of basic design tools and skills, such as drawing, model making and prototyping in materials such as cardboard, metal and plastic. We will also consider aesthetics, manufacturability and usability of the objects we create. Throughout the course students will work towards improving visual communication skills and the ability to convey ideas.
Recycling, remanufacturing, refurbishing, repurposing and up-cycling are all ways to add value, reduce waste and lower the environmental impact of used objects. Through the notion of tinkering, we will explore how discarded objects can be creatively reused for utilitarian and artistic purposes. Through this process participants in the course will enhance their technological creativity and designing capacity. Using projects and experiential means (e.g. tinkering) students in this course will gain a deeper understanding of their creative process, improve their understanding of mechanical objects, explore the relationship between discarded and reused, acquire basic fabrication and design skills and do some intuitive engineering.