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Industrial designer lightens school load

Delhi-based Prashant Chandra wins US$50,000 at Windows PC Design Competition for education technology, reports Kanupriya Vashisht.

india Updated: Jan 17, 2006 11:52 IST

Born in Lucknow, Prashant Chandra belonged to the generation of kids who trudged to school with a heavy pile of books on their backs. Chandra always felt there ought to be a lighter alternative to bearing the load of knowledge.

And then the epiphany happened for Chandra: a personal computer (PC) designed for school and college students specifically for academic work. Instead of traditional hard drives, Chandra decided it should include slots for students to plug in digital textbooks and notebooks, which could be stored on light-weight digital cards.

The epiphany would never have materialized had Chandra, an industrial designer for Gurgaon-based Telserra India Pvt Ltd with no ties to mainstream PC manufacturers, had not seen an advertisement in a magazine last summer for the Next Generation Windows OS PC Design Competition. The program "sChOOL Pak" PC was the result.

It was selected by Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates over 200 other entries for the Chairman's Award, one of the inaugural PC-design contest's four awards. In addition to limited storage and networking, Chandra's PC includes two screens: one a Tablet PC-like screen for capturing hand-written notes and the other a traditional screen for reading digital texts and other materials. The sChOOL Pak also offers replaceable rubberized shells with trendy designs and straps so it could be worn like a backpack.

The winners were announced at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada. The second winner of the $50,000 prize is Purdue University (US) graduate student Sungho Son, for a "bookshelf" computer design.

The two winners of the Chairman's award will receive cash prizes of US$50,000 each and the two public choice winners will receive $25,000 each. Also, the winning designs will be featured on the competition's website for PC hardware manufacturers and others in search of novel designs.

Microsoft introduced the competition in 2005 in collaboration with the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) and two PC manufacturers, Dell and HP, to help commemorate the 20th anniversary of Microsoft Windows and the upcoming release of the next version of the operating system, Microsoft Windows Vista.

The four categories offered for the entries are - entertainment, communications and mobility and personal productivity and living/lifestyle. Based on strong interest and positive feedback, Microsoft plans to hold the competition annually.

First Published: Jan 16, 2006 15:55 IST