How do we keep good ideas alive? What about when those good ideas come from outside the lab? Human-centered design researcher Beth Kolko explores innovation through need, and posits that we need to rethink what we build, how we build it, and most importantly, how we share it with the world to make an impact.
Professor Kolko blends disciplinary perspectives to identify hidden problems and craft innovative solutions. She began her career as a professor in the humanities, studying how diverse communities used a then text-based Internet to organize and enact change. After a decade of work on technology adoption, adaptation, and usage patterns in low resource communities around the world, she became a professor in engineering in order to collaborate on building better solutions to intransigent problems. Her current work focuses on the potential of non-experts to create disruptive solutions, and she builds programs that help people become functional engineers so they can solve problems in their communities.
Kolko holds a position as Professor of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington where she co-directs the Tactical and Tactile Technology Lab. At UW she also created the Hackademia Project. Kolko is also Director of Innovation for the newly formed Makerbot Foundation in Brooklyn, New York. And she is co-founder and CEO of Shift Labs, a for-profit company building low-cost medical devices for emerging markets leveraging global innovation networks. She has been a Fulbright professor at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, a Visiting Faculty Researcher at Microsoft Research, and a Fellow and Faculty Associate at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.