Public libraries just may be one of the greatest inventions ever. Broadly disseminating knowledge throughout a community is a nice way to grow community prosperity. Public education is also one of the greatest inventions of all time. Launching young minds on learning journeys that can take them through life is another good way to grow community prosperity. If it seems like there’s some powerful mission overlap going on, you’re right. So why not combine them? Why not, indeed!
The San Diego Public Library is also the proud home to the e3 Civic High School. “E” cubed stands for engage, educate and empower – qualities that some schools strive for but few actually live up to. The three Es aren’t just goals for the students; the school also wants to engage, educate and empower teachers and parents within the community, helping turn them into lifelong learners with an interest in civic engagement. That’s e3’s vision, and given the name of my blog it won’t surprise you that it’s one that excites me greatly.
If you visit e3 High School’s website you’ll learn that they want their design to demonstrate the mutual benefit for the school and library beyond just sharing a space, which is to share that common purpose. In fact, if you look at effective partnerships, whether that is between people or institutions, you’ll see that one of the secret sauce ingredients is desire overlap. (more…)
How would you like to have a faucet in your home that swirls water into stunning crystalline spirals? It might sound superfluous, but a faucet called Swirl has some serious good embedded into its beautiful design.
Designer Simin Qiu, a student at London’s Royal College of Art, created a faucet so striking it has won design awards and has the web all aflutter with its beauty. Swirl is a sleek water faucet that dispenses water in the beautiful pattern you see below. Those with a deep appreciation for art know the importance of negative space — the white space that exists being object and form. But take a closer look and you’ll see that Swirl has taken that design principle and applied it to a surprising new art: the art of water conservation.
Swirl was designed to use 15 percent less water than the average water faucet with the same pressure in a 60-second period. If you want to conserve even more water, there’s an aerator that mixes air with the water flow and saves up to 30 percent of water used. You can choose between three swirly water patterns, each of which dispense 0.4 seconds faster than a traditional faucet. The slight increase in speed positions the user to keep the faucet on for a shorter amount of time. (more…)
Some of you are old enough to remember when the original Tetris, the extremely satisfying tile stacking game, was released in the mid-eighties. And those of you who weren’t around for the first version might have run into it in a “retro-release” form. Well it’s back again and in a surprising and satisfying new medium. Just make sure you’re not looking for it on your game console.
TetraBIN is an augmented reality trash can that rewards folks for throwing stuff away instead of littering. Sensors in the bin ignite LED lights to create an interactive Tetris-like experience on the exterior of the trashcan. The block’s patterns are discerned by the shape and size of the trash you deposit in combination with your timing – a heavy-hitting move that gamifies the simple and mindless, but important, act of throwing trash away. If you watch the video below you’ll get to see the trashcan in action.
Interested in exploring how technology can be used to motivate behavior changes, folks from the University of Sydney’s Design Lab collaborated on this project with the hopes of improving urban livability. Alumni Steven Bai and Sam Johnson worked with the Design Lab’s Director of the computing program, Martin Tomitsch, to find a way to make cities more welcoming, and one important way to do that is to keep them clean. And that is something that citizens benefit by taking an active role in, whether they acknowledge it or not. (more…)
Eiffel Tower. These two words evoke a lot of sentiments for a lot of people, many of which are likely nostalgia for great times spent in Paris. What few people – if any – probably think about when they hear of this famous tower is environmentally friendly. And why should they? This 128-year-old structure wasn’t designed in the times where “global warming” and “greenhouse gasses” dominated our headlines
In partnership with the Société d’Exploitation de la Tour Eiffel (SETE), a renewable energy firm called Urban Green Energy (UGE) installed two wind turbines on the second level of the tower last month. The turbines are expected to produce enough energy to offset the annual consumption of all the commercial activity on the tower’s first floor, according to UGE’s website. And if you’ve ever been to this landmark, you know the hustle and bustle that takes place on floor one.
The second level of the tower is approximately 400 feet above ground level, which is an optimal height for energy production. Because it’s so high in the sky, the turbines aren’t all that visible from below. But even if they were, they look kind of cool. If you view the video below you’ll get an idea of how little they disrupt the beauty of the tower. It really is an elegant design.
Imagine if you were to call 911 in response to someone having a heart attack and the ambulance arrived within one minute. You’d hardly have time to panic before a medic arrived! When it comes to heart failure or terrible accidents, one minute is already pushing it, and it is nearly impossible that an ambulance could arrive that quickly.
A very bright graduate of the Technical University of Delft IDE located in the Netherlands has a solution to this time crunch problem. The Ambulance Drone is the result of Alec Momont’s Master’s thesis project and it’s got some real potential.
It’s a lightweight drone (made with an ultra light carbon fiber frame and 3D-printed materials) that can arrive on-scene in approximately 60 seconds. To answer the skeptics’ suspicions right off the bat – this is assuming that eventually these drones will be stocked anywhere ambulances are. The drone flies around 62 miles per hour and doesn’t have to wait for lights to change or for clueless drivers to get out of its way. (more…)
I love to read about, listen to and discuss healthcare. Being a resident of Minnesota, I am exposed to some of the most progressive and commendable healthcare initiatives taking place in our fair nation, and I’m proud to say I’ve gotten to see much of it develop. What really excites me is when I see activity that is intended to change the underlying design from one that is focused on sickness to one that further develops the “health” in healthcare. In other words: designs that promote, preserve and monetize keeping us away from sickness. It’s not often that you see these designs in hospitals, but when those worlds are melded it makes for a particularly noteworthy effort.
For example last December I blogged about a Detroit-area hospital’s progressive culinary initiative – an on-site greenhouse to provide patients with natural and nutritious foods. And this past August I wrote about a hospital’s upgraded rooms that resulted in a huge decrease in requests for medicines from the patients.
Well I’ve got another example of hospital ingenuity to file away in the healthcare folder: the Watertown Regional Medical Center in Wisconsin has an in-house restaurant with food so excellent that it attracts members of the community – not just those visiting the patients. Yes, the restaurant is part of the hospital’s “food service” offering, but the plates are of such a high quality that people travel to consume it. The hospital is situated near a farm that pumps them with produce, which yielded 60 crops this year! They even source local meat, purchasing two full cows annually. (more…)
Have you ever noticed a piece of prime real estate in your neighborhood that goes from restaurant concept to restaurant concept but never really makes it? Are you tired of being a passive spectator to the commercial development around you?
Wouldn’t it be cool if you could crowdsource the amenities that make your neighborhood … your neighborhood?
Welcome to HoodStarter, a startup that gives you, the mighty residents of your community, some say about what should go into that vacant commercial space around the corner. No more sitting by and wondering what might pop up next – HoodStarter gives you the megaphone for the voice you never knew you had.
My grandma Molly was an old school class act. Perhaps you know the type; she was a lady who dressed up for dinner and liked to set a proper table. But as she aged she suffered from tremors in her hands, and one of the things that changed was the ability to eat with nice silverware. She lost a bit of her independence and a bit of her dignity, and I remember how sad that made her. To be sure, for many of us picking up a spoon is among the easiest things we do in a day, but to someone whose hands face constant involuntary oscillations, digging into a simple bowl of soup isn’t that simple at all.
Because of those memories, it was hard not to think of Molly when I came upon this article via the Yahoo! News Digest app (which, by the way, has recently become one of my favorite hand-held news sources). It seems that some very smart, creative and caring folks have been putting time, money and effort into designing a utensil to help alleviate the difficulties tremors bring on.
Google is producing something called the Liftware Spoon, a utensil meant to assist those who suffer from uncontrollable shaking. Lift Labs, whose founder began to study motion stabilization in graduate school, originally designed the Liftware Spoon and this past September Google acquired the company and continues to fund the spoon’s development. (more…)
Great design not only comes from addressing an important need, but in responding to it with deep empathy and understanding from the point of view of a user. It’s true: walk in the shoes of your customer and try and assume where their head is at and you will have a much better chance of producing something that is truly valued, truly appreciated and truly lasting. That’s design thinking 101.
Perhaps that’s why it’s particularly painful to watch bad design, especially when the need that is being addressed is so important. Enter our traditional education designs of schools, classrooms, curricula and teaching. The whole tool set has huge impact but it is not a hot bed of empathetic design; at least if you agree that the “user” in this case is a student. From elementary school all the way up to post-doctorates, students spend hours upon hours sitting in their seats hurriedly scribbling notes so as not to forget what the teacher is saying, all in the quest of repeating it back on the next test. That’s but one typical example of a series of activities that students experience, and the data shows that the design just isn’t cutting it. Deep and lasting learning isn’t resulting from that activity nearly enough. Learning is the need, isn’t it?
Veteran high school teacher Alexis Wiggins decided to shadow two high schoolers for two days (one day per student), to learn a little bit about what her students’ days were like. She learned some lessons and wrote about them in a post that was read by hundreds of thousands of people. The Washington Post picked it up and it exploded on social media.
She starts off her post saying, “I have made a terrible mistake.” (more…)