Moulding clay, metal and bright, inquiring minds at Umea

  • Ayesha Banerjee, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Oct 30, 2013 11:11 IST

Peter Alwin is a design whiz constantly thinking about interesting stuff -- like how, by 2050, when a space crunch will make kitchens smaller, portable cookers  with a silicon base and induction coils underneath will be the rage. They will run on sugar batteries. Tokyo University of Science researchers are working on cheap, long-lasting batteries that use sodium ions as the cathode (positive side) and carbon from ordinary sugar as the anode (negative side).

This product design graduate from India's reputed  National Institute of Design came to Sweden after winning an Electrolux international design contest on compact living for the future (the reason why the cooker idea was conceived). Once in the country, he met friends working at the Umea University's Institute of Design and made up his mind to do industrial design here and is busy at the moment designing harvesters for Swedish manufacturing giant Volvo. He takes me on a fun tour of the design campus. There's a huge snowmobile  created by 3D laser printers, students are designing cars in the clay workshop and working on machines in the metal workshop. A machine with motion sensors in the interactive design worshop  starts and virtually recoils as if frightened when my hand accidentally brushes against it and Rickard Astrom, instructor,  grins and tells you that he and his students love to work on “silly stuff.”

Umea University also focuses intensively on the  study of ageing, ecosystem changes, environmental and resource  economics, gender studies, global health, infective biology and arctic research, saysAgneta Marell, deputy vice-chancellor, external relations.

There's healthy focus on practical work. Labs here are excellent ---Vandana Parekh, robotics and control group

My views were narrow and just focussed on diseases. That has changed --- Debolina Bose, masters, public health

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