Donna Cohn, visiting assistant professor of applied design, holds a B.S. from the College of Human Ecology at Cornell University, and a master's in industrial design from the Rhode Island School of Design. She has worked with the Boston Center for Independent Living as a designer and builder of devices for people with physical disabilities. Her design process emphasized collaboration with the end user and the use of low-cost tools and materials. This way of working continues to inform her current design practice and teaching.
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.
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.
This tutorial level design class will begin with a series of guided activities and culminate in a final independent project. We will work with tools, materials and resources available in the Center for Design fabrication shop (metal, plastics, cardboard). Students will become familiar with a range of basic design tools and skills - hand sketching, SketchUp (computer 3D modeling) 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. There will be a selection of readings and media viewings; students are encouraged to make suggestions of this content.
Is it possible to completely eliminate negative environmental impact of the everyday things we buy with careful design? In this class, students will choose one consumer product, find out how it was made, track the source of its components and materials, and learn what happens to it upon disposal. The challenge will then be to make a functionally equivalent version of that product that does no harm. Students who take this class should be diligent, resourceful researchers, comfortable with the process of making, and willing to work as part of a team.
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.
Students, faculty and alums will collaborate to bring promising design work, which benefits people living in poverty to a place where it can reach its intended audience on a wider scale. For the Spring 2014, we will focus on developing a human powered pearl millet thresher that will be field tested during Fall 2014. Pearl millet is a highly nutritious staple cereal grown and consumed in parts of sub-Saharan Africa. The plant requires no irrigation and is grown in the harshest of conditions. Much of the grain grown in sub-Saharan Africa is produced and consumed by millions of people who grow it on small farms, pound and thresh it by hand. Students interested in applied design, anthropology, and agriculture are encouraged to consider taking this class. Entry to this course is by application, not open to first year students.
Assistant Professor of Applied Design
Mail Code LM
Lemelson Center for Design 106
893 West Street
Amherst, MA 01002