A group of Industrial Design and Architecture students, led by Prof. Akshay Sharma, are working to see how design can improve the everyday lives of people in very poor communities. The program, entitled “Designing Empowerment,” focuses on the technical and social factors that define life for the world’s poorest and attempts to create practical tools to assist them. Students have traveled to India with Sharma to see first-hand the challenges of daily life for the estimated 4 billion people worldwide who live below the poverty line.
Two projects undertaken by this group recently received international recognition: “immune,” a cell phone based vaccination solution, was named the winner of the 2012 Design for All Foundation Award; “laXmi,” a financial literacy system (Bahikhaata) for illiterate women, was named a finalist for the 2012 World Design Impact Prize, sponsored by ICSID; both the immune and laXmi projects were recently selected as Bronze Award winners in the prestigious International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) program from the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA). Sharma has also received the University’s 2012 Alumni Award for Excellence in International Outreach.