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Extreme By Design

EXTREME BY DESIGN follows Stanford business, engineering and medical students as they work in teams, using design thinking methods, to develop products and services that serve the needs of the world's poor. One student team works on a breathing device to keep babies alive in Bangladesh. Another seeks a way to store drinking water in Indonesia. The third team project is to design an IV medicine infusion pump.

It's all part of the Design for Extreme Affordability course inspired and launched by the Stanford The film begins on the first day of the course and ends eight months later as one group of students returns to Asia to test their device amid plans to launch a startup.

At a time of unprecedented global challenges EXTREME BY DESIGN shows the power of human-centered design in creating innovative, effective and sustainable solutions to the complex problems facing us.

'Truly inspiring! This film vividly illustrates the power of experiential learning and entrepreneurial spirit. It demonstrates the messy and unpredictable path to breakthrough ideas, and shows a powerful way to prepare young people to tackle real world problems.' Dr. Tina Seelig, Professor of the Practice, Stanford School of Engineering, Author of inGenius: A Crash Course on Creativity

'Design is always complex and challenging; it should be fun and rewarding. Extreme by Design shows most of the qualities that young designers, engineers and managers should learn. They need to be human-centered, goal-driven, creative, persistent and deliver something that works, and this film shows these requirements and provides concrete examples. Human-Centered Design is a matter of technology, organizations and people, and the film should be presented to students to encourage their creativity, motivation and enthusiasm. This kind of emerging competence is needed in the twenty-first century. I will certainly use Extreme By Design with my students.' Dr. Guy Andre Boy, Director and Professor of Human-Centered Design Institute at Florida Institute of Technology, Fellow of the Air and Space Academy, Author of Orchestrating Human-Centered Design

'The clock is ticking - 72 hours, 8 days, 10 weeks - and the problems seem overwhelming. Under extreme pressures, but with strong networks of support, Stanford graduate students from many different fields work on affordable solutions to the life and death problems of the world's poorest peoples. As they learn design, they readjust their values and their life goals. Riveting.' James Rodger Fleming, Chair and Professor of Science, Technology, and Society Program, Colby College, Author, Fixing the Sky: The Checkered History of Weather and Climate Control

'Outstanding examples of creative collaborations to design culturally and environmentally sensitive inventions and ways to continuously test and improve them. I am deeply impressed. What a fantastic way to learn and contribute to the world.' Dr. John D. Bransford, Shauna C. Larson Professor of the Learning Sciences, University of Washington at Seattle, Co-author of How People Learn and Preparing Teachers for a Changing World

'This documentary follows the aspiring engineers and innovators and beautifully captures the excitement, motivations, and frustrations as well as the successes and failures of the different teams. The teams struggle, start to fall apart, throw all-nighters and eventually produce prototypes which may satisfy the course requirements but leave unanswered the larger and more important question: Will the inventions actually make a difference? What we see throughout this touching and humane account of talented young idealists facing the often intractable problems of poverty, is how engineering problems and solutions are ultimately grounded in the real world of ordinary lives and people.' Trevor Pinch, Professor of Science and Technology Studies and Sociology, Cornell University, Author, The Handbook of Sound Studies

'Extreme by Design illustrates the true nature of science, celebrating the scientific spirit and the power of collaborative design...Personalizes the scientific process with background stories from Bangladesh and Indonesia and interviews with the team members...Illustrates the teams' struggles with their ideas, their products, and even themselves...Extreme by Design is highly motivating and inspiring and would be an effective tool for teacher professional development as well as for secondary classroom use.' Deb McNabney, NSTA Recommends

'This documentary is enjoyable and instructive on many levels. It can demonstrate for students of any age, and in any discipline, how design problems can be tackled. It demonstrates the practicalities of the design process, including the value of designing and testing a prototype and of overcoming interpersonal conflicts in pursuit of global solutions.' Faith Brynie, Science Books and Films

'Highly Recommended...The documentary is inspiring and uplifting...would serve well as an introduction to experimental or service learning. In addition, it could foster excellent discussions in engineering, design, or business courses.' Jane Scott, George Fox University, Educational Media Reviews Online

'A masterful testimony of the trials and travails of teamwork, as well as the personal calling to serve the less fortunate, Extreeme By Design is an inspirational film especially recommended for public, high school, and college library DVD collections' The Midwest Book Review


Main credits

King, Ralph (Director)
King, Ralph (Producer)
Schwarz, Michael (Producer)
Gubler, Matthew Gray (Narrator)

Other credits

Directors of photography, Vincente Franco, John Chater; editor, Don Bernier, co-editor, Rhonda Collins; original score, Peter Rundquist.

Docuseek subjects

Distributor subjects

Asian Studies
Business Practices
Developing World
Global Issues
Millennium Development Goals
Physical Science
Science, Technology, Society


Stanford, multidisciplinary, project-based course, student design teams, building a better world, business, engrineering, medical students, design thinking, products for world's poor, breathing device for babies, Bangladesh, drinking water storage, Bangladesh, IV medicine infusion pump, Design for Extreme Affordability, Stanford, startup, global challenges, human-centered design, innovative solutions, product development, prototype, Nusa Penida, iccdr,b, IBEKA, infant death, pneumonia, bubble CPAP, Jim Patell, Dave Beach, Erica Estrada, Bengali, Dhaka, shortage of fresh water, deadlines, first design review, consensus, relationships, entrepreneurs, creativity; ; ,"Extreme By Design",Bullfrog Films

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