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Freshman Inquiry: Design and Society

Designers influence the creation of products, images, infrastructure and environments surrounding us, both virtual and real. Acting in a deliberate manner, designers engage with the problems facing their communities, and act to solve them by developing pragmatic, creative and innovative solutions. This course will use designers' activities as an analogy for individuals in other disciplines; in the end, everyone is a designer as they determine the context and direction of their life. Using design as our focus, we will explore individual responsibilities toward society: How can we act to bridge the gap between design and ecological sustainability? How can individuals acting locally compete within the global economy? Using hands-on activities, case studies, and historical investigations, we will explore techniques for design, visualization, and creative problem solving, and share our visions for a future where designing, and by extension all activity, occurs in harmony with natural systems.

While this course uses hands-on activities as part of the teaching and learning process there is significant amount of reading and writing expected.

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Kenny Bagley

Josh Fost relates to the Design & Society theme through his experiences as a scientist, a technologist, and an artist. Scientifically, he sees design in our past (our evolutionary origins as tool makers) and our future (our urgent need for a revolution in sustainability). Technically and artistically, he sees the design process as a way of merging critical and creative thought, and doing so through hands-on construction projects and Socratic inquiry. He received his PhD in neurocience from Princeton. In his spare time, he plays with software, tries to work on his graphic novel, and tries to avoid thinking about the 38 other things on his to-do list.

Betsy Natter started teaching in the Maseeh College of Electrical and Computer Engineering and University Studies in 2004. Prior to teaching she spent ten years in the semiconductor industry in positions ranging from process and device engineering to management of quality and reliability. Teaching semiconductor physics had been a goal and was a natural transition, but teaching Design & Society and working with a great variety of teammates has been an unexpected delight. She hopes to make science and engineering less intimidating and more easily understood so her students can prosper in our technological society. She received her BS in Physics from Caltech and her MS in Electrical Engineering from the Oregon Graduate Institute. She loves reading, playing the piano, backpacking, skiing, and spending time with her family.

Christof Teuscher holds an assistant professor position in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) with joint appointments in the Department of Computer Science (CS) and in the Systems Science Graduate Program at Portland State University. He also holds an Adjunct Assistant Professor appointment in Computer Science at the University of New Mexico (UNM). Christof obtained his M.Sc. and Ph.D. degree in computer science from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) in 2000 and 2004 respectively. His main research interests include emerging computing architectures and paradigms, biologically-inspired computing, complex & adaptive systems, and cognitive science. Christof has received several prestigious awards and fellowships, has published multiple books, and about 100 scientific papers. He is very passionate about research and teaching. For more information visit