Extreme By Design
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About the Program
At a time of unprecedented global challenges, the under-30 “millennial” generation has every reason to be fatalistic and disengaged. Yet in fields ranging from public health to education, plenty of millennials are engaged. Call it the empathy revolution. Extreme By Design brings this revolution vividly to life by capturing the experience of 40 students from Stanford University’s Institute of Design (aka the d.school) as they create products that may save thousands of lives in Bangladesh, Indonesia and other developing countries they visit as part of a class called Design for Extreme Affordability.
The students apply the freewheeling “Design Thinking” approach, tapping previously undiscovered creativity and draw on methods from engineering and industrial design, and combine them with ideas from the arts, tools from the social sciences, and insights from the business world. Believing that they can and will make a difference, the students open their hearts and brains and remarkably, almost magically, their products take shape and work.
The film follows one principal student from each of three teams. The physical, mental and emotional challenges each participant faces create a compelling narrative and teach them important lessons along the way.
- Pam, 29, a second-year MBA candidate whose team, Inspire, works to create a breathing device that helps prevent infant pneumonia deaths in Bangladesh. While their idea is successful, do they have what it takes to make the product commercially viable?
- Durell, 22, an engineering student and track star, whose team, FlexiTangki, devises ways to store drinking water for remote villages in Indonesia. The team must use modern science, but also embrace longstanding traditions held by the villagers they are there to help.
- Seth, 29, an Iraqi war veteran and first-year MBA candidate, whose team, Caregiver Medical, builds a low-operating-cost IV infusion device for use in developing countries. The device requires complex design, but the team has only one engineer.
The narrative begins on the first day of the class and ends eight months later with one group of students returning to Asia to test their device in the field amid plans to launch a startup.
Now in its 10th year, Design for Extreme Affordability, taught by a multidisciplinary team of Stanford faculty that includes Jim Patell, Dave Beach, Stuart Coulson and Julian Gorodsky, has developed a global reputation for game-changing solutions to problems in the developing world. One nonprofit that came from the course, Embrace, makes an infant warming device that costs less than one percent of a traditional incubator. This device is positioned to save the lives of 100,000 premature babies in the next three years.