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 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. We will read Brilliant Imperfection by activist Eli Clare, a series of essays which explore cure-the deeply held belief that body-minds considered broken need to be fixed. We will look at how and where ideas of cure are presented in our culture, and how these ideas affect us. 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.
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.
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.
Animals, Robots and Applied Design: This is a hands-on course in which students will create mechanical animal models based on their observations of live animal behaviors. Mechanical models of animals are used in both art and science. Students will learn animal observation techniques, design and fabrication skills, basic electronics and simple programming. This is a class for students with skills or interests in any of the following: electronics, robotics, animal behavior, programming, metal, wood or plastics fabrication. This will be a highly collaborative setting in which students will be responsible for sharing their own specialized skills. Students can expect introductory assignments to learn basic skills, followed by a term project. We will also examine work being done by scientists and artists who combine the study of animals with robotics and mechanical design.
This is an introductory level design class that wil 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 prototype 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 toward improving visual commmunication skills and the abilility to convey ideas.
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.