Dartmouth College/Ashesi University College Design Engineering Project (Summer 2017)

Dartmouth Lead: Kofi Odame, Associate Professor of Engineering

The objective of the proposed work is to crystallise the relationship between Dartmouth College and Ashesi University College around a concrete, collaborative design project. Both universities share an uncommon approach to engineering education, presenting it as part of a broad, liberal-arts experience. By participating in an undergraduate engineering project that is of mutual interest to faculty in both universities, the hope is to strengthen the institutional linkages between Dartmouth College and Ashesi University College.

The specific engineering project that we will tackle is a solution to aid in the diagnosis of pneumonia by health workers in low-resource settings.

Pneumonia is the single deadliest infectious disease of children under age 5, disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest regions. Early detection and treatment of pneumonia are critical to saving lives, but the gold-standard for pneumonia diagnoses requires biomedical imaging and laboratory testing facilities. These are often not an option in low-resource settings.

To address this problem, UNICEF and WHO have recommended that community health workers diagnose pneumonia based on the presence of clinical symptoms: a cough, fever, and elevated respiratory rate. Unfortunately, these diagnoses are highly subjective, leaving some pneumonia sufferers untreated, while other children are unnecessarily placed on a course of medication.

We propose to apply design thinking and electrical engineering tools to develop a solution that provides community health workers with an objective assessment of the clinical symptoms of pneumonia.

Project Details

  1. Preparation:

Before the start of the 10-week project, Ashesi and Dartmouth teams will identify and commit resources (funding, laboratory space and equipment, materials, IT and classroom infrastructure, student researchers, faculty time, support staff) needed for the project.

  1. Execution:

Week 1: The Dartmouth-Ashesi student team will participate in several brainstorming sessions to establish the scope of the design challenge and the envisioned solution. Brainstorming sessions will be conducted over Skype (or a similar video conferencing tool), with moderation from faculty at both universities.

Week 2: The Ashesi student team will identify sources of primary information and conduct interviews and observational studies with community health workers to identify the challenges of current tools like the Acute Respiratory Infection (ARI) Timer, or the color-coded bead counter. The Ashesi team will also explore the social and economic barriers to accessing adequate health care for paediatric populations in low-resource settings. The Dartmouth team will interview clinical experts and will also perform secondary research about point-of-care diagnostics and the economic barriers to their adoption.

Weeks 3-8: Both teams will participate in several iterations of solution design, prototyping, usability testing, analysis and redesign. Usability testing will be performed by the Ashesi students, while prototyping will be performed by the Dartmouth students. The entire Dartmouth-Ashesi team will meet (via Skype or a similar video conferencing tool) at the end of each usability testing phase to analyse test results and to develop an appropriate new design. While Ashesi students conduct usability testing, the Dartmouth team will prototype alternative solutions in parallel – this is to maximise productivity during the 6 week period and to perform as many design iterations as possible.

Weeks 9-10: The Dartmouth-Ashesi team will finalise the solution design, and the Dartmouth team will prototype a final version. The Ashesi team will test this prototype, and both teams will write a joint project report. The project report will include (1) a description of the scope of the problem; (2) problem details and insights that were learned during the Week 2 research and discovery phase; (3) the rationale for the various design choices that were made in the eventual solution; (4) technical documentation that describes all of the artifacts (computer code, circuit designs, 3D drawings, etc.) that were produced as part of the solution.

  1. Evaluation:

After the end of the 10-week project, Dartmouth faculty will review the activities and results of all aspects of the collaboration, including logistics, administration and instruction. The Dartmouth team will come up with a report that identifies – and attempts to explain – the aspects of the collaboration that worked well and those that did not.

Expected Impact

The 10-week design project will teach both universities a lot about the other’s organisational culture, and we are bound to discover many unanticipated shortcomings and opportunities from our interactions. We hope to use this initial experience to pursue a more ambitious, long-term program of a collaborative design course that would formally become a part of the curriculum at Dartmouth and Ashesi, co-taught by faculty from both schools, and open to students from both schools.

For Ashesi students, the impact of such a course would be access to world-class instructional and prototyping facilities. For Dartmouth students, the benefit would be exposure to real, global-scale engineering challenges. For all students, the experience would be an immersive lesson in cross-cultural communication, a critical skill in today’s globalised engineering workforce.

Faculty involved in this course could experiment with different approaches to hybrid distance/classroom learning; they could potentially create pedagogical innovations for teaching hands-on, physical, engineering and design courses at extremely low cost.

For the discipline of embedded systems engineering, the long-term impact of this collaboration is a new design ethos that is highly conscious of cost (materials and sourcing costs, manufacturing costs, running/maintenance costs, end-of-life costs) from the beginning, and at every level of abstraction, of the project.

Application: Fill this Google Form

GN Electronics Product Design and Development 2017 Summer Project Description

Title: Ashesi Design Lab (D:lab)/GN Electronics Design Thinking Project (Summer 2017)

Overview (GN Electronics):

GN Electronics, a subsidiary of Groupe Nduom, is a Ghanaian company located in Elmina, in the Central Region of Ghana. GN Electronics assembles electronic products including set top boxes, televisions, and soon a variety of household products.

Overview (Ashesi Design Lab):

The Ashesi Design Lab is an initiative which combines the concepts of design thinking and design making; design thinking or strategy design for problem-solving, and design making or fabrication for making things more tangible and building out the creative outcomes of the different processes involved in both concepts.

Project Scope:

The D:Lab is exploring a partnership with GN Electronics to conduct Design Thinking Projects aimed at discovering the electronics products within the health sector that GN Electronics can build locally. We propose to apply design thinking tools to develop a solution that meets the needs of users in the health industry. The project will be divided into two periods, the first (6 weeks) will be focused on research and product development and the next (4 weeks) will be a hands-on practice with the electronics club at Ashesi University.

For the first 6 weeks, d:lab interns will do research and identify opportunity areas in the health sector that GN electronics can explore and develop prototypes to be tested. For the next 4 weeks, the electronics club at Ashesi will develop tangible, working prototypes for GN electronics.

Project Details:

Project Start Date: 22nd May 2017

May 22: Research and observations to identify opportunity areas GN electronics can explore. Data gathered will also be analysed using design thinking analysis frameworks. Write a brief report on findings and insights to back 6 areas of need which can be explored by GN Electronics.

June 12 (Presentation 1): Interns present 6 opportunity areas to GN electronics. GN electronics will select 3 opportunity areas for interns to explore further.

June 19 (Presentation 2): Interns will present 2 ideas for each opportunity area identified. There will be 6 ideas for GN to rank.

June 26:  Prototypes will be developed and interns will prepare documents for the electronics club to work on. Hand over ideas and documentation of product designs to Nicholas’ team The document will entail product specifications and requirement definitions for the electronics club to use to develop a tangible product or solutions.

June 7: Package shared with GN electronics and the electronics club

July 10 – August 10: The electronics club work on actual tangible products to present to GN Electronics

August 11: The electronics club/team travel to Elmina to present their solutions and designs to GN electronics.

Project End Date: 11th August 2017



Interested students are required to submit their CVs to dlab@ashesi.edu.gh




Biomimicry: A Way of Generating New and Sustainable Ideas by Genesis Nchopereu

This is a project that seeks to explore diverse ways of idea generation for innovative outcomes using biomimicry as inspiration. The following is an abstract of a research paper that is being written by Genesis Nchopereu ’19 and Dr Gordon Adomdza, the lead of the Ashesi Design Lab.

The answers to all questions around sustainability in our social, economic, environmental and scientific spaces lie in nature. Biomimicry is a way of replicating nature’s ecosystem, materials and processes into sustainable solutions that solve complex human challenges. This paper explores the meaning of biomimicry and examples of nature-inspired designs. It explores how biomimicry can be used to generate the next big idea and the implications of the biomimicry approach for sustainability in designing post-modern solutions. This paper will also cover how the Ashesi Design lab (D:lab) plans on using biomimicry to generate high impact ideas. Considering the fact that nature solves every problem, understanding how it does it sustainably is the first clue that this paper provides. How we seek inspiration from nature and transform the inspiration into feasible, working models with extensive applications are the ultimate goals of this paper. Therefore, it will conclude with how Ashesi D:Lab is building a design model for biomimicry to facilitate easy application of biomimicry in generating new ideas.


Biomimicry, Sustainability, Nature—inspired, Implications, Postmodern, Nature

The First Assessment – Young Creatives Initiative at Ashesi 

On 1st March the Young Creatives team held the 5th session of the program in the McNulty Foundation Design Lab on the Ashesi University College campus. For previous sessions, the team taught the students how to identify problems around them and understand the stakeholders, effects and causes of these problems. We introduced a class charter and some concepts of leadership and teamwork such as respect and core values to the students.

For the 5th Session of this program, we brought the students to the Ashesi Campus. This change of environment revealed a lot about how physical environments can greatly impact the emotions of young learners and hence motivate learning! 


We, the team for the day, surprised them with a quiz to test their understanding of problems, causes and effects of problems, and stakeholders, tackled in previous sessions. Some students expressed how this made them feel; in their own words, the experience was ‘easy’, ‘tough’, ‘uncomfortable’.

We watched a short animation movie, “Soar” – by Alyce True, and introduced the idea of observation as a form of empathy in the Design Thinking process and the essence of acknowledging the feelings of others in Leadership. This was when we truly realised that communication and verbal self-expression was a challenge for the students of Fidelity Juvenile School in Berekuso. Our newest challenge now is: “How might we enable a reluctant, unsure, maybe shy junior high school student to communicate effectively and express themselves intelligently to others?”

The day ended with a display of the arrow head marching formation that the students spent the entire day in school learning, prior to our Young Creatives session.

Growing Plants with Synthetic hydrophilic polymers (hydrogels) on the Ashesi Farm

With the intention of improving farm irrigation and water retention for plant grow, Dr. Elena Rosca, senior lecturer at the engineering department of Ashesi, has partnered with the farm modeling team in creating a test case around the possibility of farm irrigation using water retentive hydrogels during the dry season. This experiment is towards a project that Dr. Rosca will initiate in a bid to modify these hydrogels to become bio-degradable and plant-friendly.

Image uploaded from iOS (1)

The farm team together with Dr. Rosca, Dr. Charles Jackson, and the D:Lab coordinators visited the farm to explore the potential of the experiment as well as determine the processes involved.

Teaching the K-12 Design Thinking Curriculum to JHS 1 Students – The Young Creatives Initiative

The Young Creatives Initiative is a new project that seeks to teach design thinking to JHS 1 students in Berekuso using the collection of curriculum created by the K-12 Lab at the Stanford Design School and teachers who are using design thinking in schools across the world.

This is an initiative of the Ashesi Design Lab, in partnership with NewLeaf, that seeks to foster creative confidence in young teenagers in local high schools in Ghana. To achieve this goal, young teenagers will be introduced to design thinking concepts and tools, as well as coached in developing excellent leadership and effective communication skills.

The Young Creatives project is led by Carl Agbenyega (Design Making Coordinator of the D:Lab), Philip Asare (Design Thinking Coordinator of the D:Lab) and Vanessa Amoako (co-founder of NewLeaf and Faculty Intern at Ashesi University). The leads together with student volunteers from Ashesi, run the design thinking, leadership and communication sessions with Junior High School (JHS) 1 students at the Fidelity Juvenile School, located in Berekuso of Ghana.

Content Series: Open-ended questions vs Closed-ended questions in Design Thinking Research



Melinawo Vowotor’s bio: I belong to Ashesi University’s second batch of aspiring engineers. I am currently in affiliation (CEO) to an FDE venture called “Frozen Inc.” that seeks to find sustainable ways of preventing the losses of food incurred during power outages. I love sports, movies, photography and especially music and Game of Thrones! I believe design thinking is the foremost approach to handling any situation be it a problem to solve or a dilemma to tackle, and that the school of thought surrounding it encourages me and other like-minded people to challenge ourselves and face the problems all around us.