Jacobs Hall, designing for real-world problems

frugal cast on arm

A prototyped frugal cast design from the Industrial Design and Human Factors course in Jacobs Hall. (UC Berkeley photo)

“I just love the human aspect of it,” said Lily Nguyen as she talked about the process behind her team’s “solar box” prototype for an affordable, bacteria-killing lunchbox.

Nguyen, an undergraduate student who has taken multiple courses in UC Berkeley’s new Jacobs Hall  —  including User Interface Design, Introduction to New Product Development, and Industrial Design and Human Factors, for which she worked on the solar box project  —  is no stranger to “being around a bunch of people who build things.” 

Whether building a physical project or an app, she added, she and her fellow designers tend to ask the same question when thinking about eventual users: “What can we do to make their lives a little bit easier?”

Nguyen and her teammates are not alone. Jacobs Hall was the site of nearly 30 courses this past semester, with enrollments totaling roughly 1,700. Many of these courses, from an introductory design process class to upper-division offerings in computer science and mechanical engineering, put designing for real-world problems at the center of the syllabus.

The Jacobs Spring Design Showcase in early May, at which Nguyen  —  along with students from 16 courses held in the building  —  presented her project, offered a look at the ways in which an interdisciplinary ecosystem at Berkeley is fostering a focus on design for real impact.

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