UC Davis D-Lab combines art, engineering in new course
Photo Credits: Abigail Edwards

The Aggie's article on the D-Lab by Kat Hanrahan: 

From teaching to research projects, D-lab focuses on sustainability

When Dr. Kurt Kornbluth looks back on his time designing and building wheelchairs in Africa and Central America, he regards his work as only semi-successful. Although he built better wheelchairs, the project revealed an inherent flaw: He had not accounted for the societal changes that would be required to maintain the positive impact his work had made. Instead of getting discouraged, Kornbluth was inspired to integrate technology into society in a more meaningful way.

Kornbluth is now a professor in the department of biological and agricultural engineering as well as the founder and director of the UC Davis D-Lab. The D-Lab, founded in 2009, is Kornbluth’s realization of his goal. Kornbluth and his staff work with clients, both local and international, to develop low-cost, clean and efficient technologies that are uniquely situated within the client’s requirements and vision.

The D-Lab also maintains a strong educational component. D-Lab courses, typically offered quarterly, assemble cross-disciplinary student teams to create sustainable solutions for a real client, both in the planning and prototyping phases. The D-Lab teaches a methodology that guides students in research and integrates four lenses of sustainability: social, environmental, financial and technical.

Kornbluth’s courses are a type of research in and of themselves. Working with the dean of the College of Engineering, he is developing experimental courses for the Engineering Student Design Center and figuring out how to most effectively facilitate professional and hands-on learning experiences. Kornbluth developed these pilot courses over the past few years, with research focuses ranging from Zero Waste and Zero Net Energy to their latest collaboration: Art and Engineering.

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