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KSC Proposes New Major in Sustainable Design

Keene N.H., 8/11/2008 - Keene State College is adding a new baccalaureate program in Sustainable Product Design and Innovation (SPDI). The College is waiting for final approval from the University System of New Hampshire, but hopes to start offering courses in the fall of 2009.

The four-year, pre-professional SPDI curriculum will integrate the social and scientific aspects of sustainability concerns into the current Product Design and Development option in Technology Studies. This option gives students a solid foundation in the artistic, scientific, and technical aspects of product design and draws on five disciplines - art, management, mathematics, safety, and industrial/product design - to teach design theory and practice, material sciences, production processes, digital technology, and the quantitative and qualitative issues of sustainability and business practices.

“We know that innovation happens at the boundaries between disciplines,” says Lisa Hix, principal faculty member for the new SPDI program. “Courses in the arts and safety help with ergonomic design; math and management courses help students understand the economic implications of a new product.”

The new “lean and green” global economy
Integrating sustainability values into KSC’s current Product Design and Development program will prepare students for engagement in the new “lean and green” global economy. But faculty in the Technology, Design & Safety and the Management departments also expanded and refined the curriculum in response to students’ growing interest in sustainability issues.

“Young people want to do something about environmental issues. More and more students are choosing projects that reflect safety or environmental concerns,” says Hix. “They are ‘tinker-thinkers.’ They’re asking, “How can we fix this?’”

One example of this new trend is the kayak trailer for bicycle designed by a student team for the spring 2008 Product Design II course. The trailer has two-axle pivots for smoother riding, and offers kayakers a carbon neutral transport option.

New Focus for Region’s Manufacturing Base
Another stimulus was feedback from the business community. The region’s historic manufacturing base is refocusing on high-tech, precision production, and businesses are having trouble finding trained employees.

“Manufacturing has taken on a new focus and demands more creativity,” says John Pappalardo, chair of Keene State’s Management Department. “Students are realizing that they need to understand how things are made - we don’t live in a virtual world.”

The Sustainable Product Design and Innovation curriculum offers students hands-on, project-based learning that focuses on real world applications, and the emphasis on innovation and business management encourages creative problem solving and entrepreneurship. The College has purchased a 3D rapid prototyper so students can create physical models of the concepts they design with CAD on their computers. Graduates from this program will be able to transition directly into careers in product design/engineering, technology/evaluation, planning, supply, production, quality control, technical services, marketing, and sales or other related professions.

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Keene, New Hampshire 03435