February 20, 2017

Jeff Higashi Awarded One of Only 15 Faculty Grants Nationwide, Recognized by VentureWell as a Leader Who Cultivates Student Innovators

New Qualified Self Course will Team Students at ArtCenter and UCLA to Invent Wearables for Wellness

From Pasadena to Westwood, teams of students with expertise in design, medicine, engineering and business will collaborate to create wearables for wellness. This summer, ArtCenter College of Design and UCLA will partner on a new approach to develop biomedical technologies aimed to improve health and wellness. The project is a meeting of the minds stretching across L.A. County and a unique opportunity for area colleges to combine forces and conquer a vexing societal problem.

In a new pilot course, The Qualified Self, created by Jeff Higashi, ArtCenter Product and Interaction Design instructor, students will focus on creating wearable devices to improve consumer health and wellbeing. Teams blending individuals from graduate engineering, life science, business, design and medicine will develop new technology-based solutions for common health challenges facing society. The course title, The Qualified Self, refers to using technology to monitor qualitative, as opposed to merely quantitative, aspects of human wellness. For example, asking someone how they feel is more a qualitative question. A quantitative query seeks exact measurements of health such as heart rate and blood pressure.

The new course is one of the College’s many Designmatters’ initiatives which demonstrates the power of design for social innovation, an emergent field oriented toward new possibilities for action and human progress. For more than a decade, ArtCenter’s Designmatters department has built a broad network of innovative collaborations with social, public and private sector organizations that strive to design a better and more humane future for all.

The collaboration is supported by a $30,000 grant from VentureWell, a nonprofit dedicated to cultivate inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs driven to solve the world’s biggest challenges and create lasting impact. A key means of achieving that success is by supporting faculty at U.S. institutions of higher education. The Hadley, Massachusetts based organization supports faculty in developing programs that cultivate student innovators and promote institutional change.

Higashi is one of only 15 university faculty grant recipients nationwide and, the only one on the West Coast, selected to receive a portion of the $363k total funding awarded by VentureWell in 2017. In addition to ArtCenter, the universities represented include University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Vanderbilt University and Iowa State University. The funds help pioneer new ways to challenge students to develop STEM-based ideas and gain the entrepreneurial skills they need to bring them to market.

VentureWell’s board is made up of leaders in the fields of technology, entrepreneurship and innovation representing such prestigious institutions as Stanford University, University of California at Berkeley, Northwestern University, Johns Hopkins and the Massachusetts Technology Transfer Center.

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About ArtCenter: Founded in 1930 and located in Pasadena, California, ArtCenter College of Design is a global leader in art and design education. ArtCenter offers 11 undergraduate and seven graduate degrees in a wide variety of industrial design disciplines as well as visual and applied arts. In addition to its top-ranked academic programs, the College also serves members of the Greater Los Angeles region through a highly regarded series of year-round educational programs for all ages and levels of experience. Renowned for both its ties to industry and its social impact initiatives, ArtCenter is the first design school to receive the United Nations’ Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) status. Throughout the College’s long and storied history, ArtCenter alumni have had a profound impact on popular culture, the way we live and important issues in our society.

Teri Bond
Media Relations Director
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ArtCenter Product Design and Interaction Design instructor, Jeff Higashi is one of only 15 university faculty grant recipients nationwide and, the only one on the West Coast, selected to receive a portion of the $363,000 total funding awarded by VentureWell in 2017.
This oxygen concentrator, designed by Lucas Zheng, allows anyone with a breathing disability to live a more mobile lifestyle. The project is an example of a wearable created by students in ArtCenter’s Product Design department.
Daniel Smitasin’s Syren is an elegantly designed prosthetic arm that gives patients the ability to play and create music by touching any surface using pressure sensor technology.
These headphones provide a secluded environment during air travel to reduce the effects of jetlag. The product was created by Minghung Lin, Arura Ju-chia Lee, Cheng Fu Hsieh and John Cao for a class co-taught by Jeff Higashi and Brian Boyl.
Alan Lee created this portable IV wearable device to increase patient mobility and healing.