Assistant 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.
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.
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.
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.
In this class students will strive to develop affordable and effective equipment paired with business models with the goal of adding value to agricultural products in Asia and Africa, or more locally. Technologies may include grain threshing, seed harvesting, food drying and fermentation. Students will learn how invention and technology fits with economic development. Students will learn basic principles of design and prototyping innovations, as well as social enterprise models for sustainability and dissemination. Students will research agricultural, community, and economic conditions in target regions, and will have interaction through skype and other media with partners from other countries. Students will be working in the design workshop and must be willing and able to use tools and machinery. Prerequisite: At least one previous course in social entrepreneurship and/or design, or permission of instructor.
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 typically 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. Prerequisite: Students who take this class should be diligent, resourceful researchers, comfortable with the process of making functional objects, and willing to work as part of a team. Provide evidence of this - such as an evaluation, piece of work.