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Genius Idea: Design that Helps Us Thrive
In 2008, when Liz Gerber began teaching mechanical engineering at Northwestern, she set about conveying to her charges that, more than achieving sleek design, an engineer's responsibility is to help her fellow man. "I wanted them to look at problems and succeed in solving them where others have given up," she says. To that end, Gerber founded Design for America, an extracurricular program in which students strategize innovative solutions to social issues. Four years later, DFA chapters have sprouted up across the country: The University of Oregon's group is improving eldercare with Remobile, a spring-loaded chair to help people with physical limitations sit and stand; after learning that hormonal fluctuations can cause dental problems during pregnancy, Dartmouth's team came up with a "smart" toothbrush that detects gingivitis; and Northwestern's DFA team is battling hospital-borne infection with SwipeSense, a roll-on hand sanitizer that clips onto scrubs. "The program is all about human-centered design," Gerber says. "We get to imagine ways to help people thrive."
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