May 25, 2016

Posted by in 2016, Expert's Session, News | 0 Comments

Discussing and shortlisting of problems with Prof Shashank Mehta

DATE: 25 th May 2016

TIME: 11:00 to 12:30

VENUE : School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Ahmedabad University

CHAIRED BY : Prof. Shashank Mehta

Prof. insisted on the session being interactive. He said that design is a practical art which requires constant improvisation. He also focused on the need of learning how to learn and said that hands-on work is the best way of learning. Speaking further on knowledge he said that in today’s time it is not information but your inference from information which is required and learners should keep on developing curiosity. He gave an example of one of his student who questioned the common practice of boiling already pasteurised and packed milk. The student got a scientific explanation that because the milk while pouring comes in contact with air, it has to be boiled. Based on this problem he developed a device which could pour milk directly into the glass while preventing it from coming in contact with air.

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He also said that there is a systematic process for the collection of information. Talking  about design he said that designing requires

a) empathy i.e. thinking from the person’s perspective

b) humility

c) sensitivity

He then asked participants to individually identify problems and opportunities based on  their field trip or otherwise write them on sticky notes. After this, the class was asked to  collectively categorise them.
Prof. also said that through design, we can change the behaviour of the people. So a design which can solve the problem of hygiene will not only solve that problem but will also bring social change. He gave an example of handy water purifier developed in Africa and talked about possibilities on how it could change the behaviour of people. He added that even through simple techniques/technologies, problems can be solved and he analogised this with the simple numbering system used by dabbawalas in Mumbai.

Talking about designing in the Indian context, he said that there is a complex requirement of consumers as well as producers. So there is a need for a middleman who can understand both these sides and cater to these needs. To substantiate this point, he gave an example of AMUL which collects milk from rural areas where there is an excess supply of milk and supplies it to urban pockets where there is a demand for the packaged milk. He then stated that a designer needs to work like this middleman.

He also said that changing perception of people is in itself is a very difficult task; creating trust so that people feel as a part of the society. He gave an example of a washing machine which in many households is used just once a week. Here it should be understood that their requirement is not washing machine but cleaning clothes so there is an opportunity created where instead of buying a washing machine, a dhobi can be hired. So the need is to make people realise about their actual requirements.

He also commented that design challenges can be solved in many different ways. Speaking of problems, he said that the problems identified by the participants are their interest, not real problems. He said, “You’ve seen what you wanted to see but not what it is.” It is difficult to be open like a sponge and bring out facts and not assumptions.

He also talked about the difference between design solution and engineering solution. He said that while the designer solution is based on needs of the user whereas engineering solution looks into technology.

Finally, he concluded by saying that the approach that we will use in summer school would be selecting a critical problem and then thinking on it. When asked by a student on how they would do it, he replied by saying that they should select a problem which the participants want to solve, is practical and can be done within the time frame.

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