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World Lab Summer Institute Brings Chinese & Western Students Together to Attack Grand Challenge Problems

There are many urgent problems facing the planet:  a degrading environment, healthcare systems in crisis, and educational systems that are inadequately training innovative thinkers to solve the problems of tomorrow.  A balanced approach is required to solve these problems:  balanced between design and technology, between human-centered and technology-centered approaches, and between different world cultures and ways of thinking.

The World Lab is a new research and educational institution that is ideally suited to tackle these grand challenges.  The World Lab is sited jointly between two of the world’s leading computing and human-centered design institutions, the University of Washington in Seattle and Tsinghua University in Beijing.   Founded by Computer Science professors James Landay (UW) and Yuanchun Shi (Tsinghua), and Design professors Yingqing Xu and Zhiyong Fu (Tsinghua) and Tad Hirsch (UW), the World Lab kicked off its first program this Summer, The World Lab Summer Institute.

The World Lab Summer Institute at the University of Washington brings together students from technology, design, social science and business backgrounds, and challenges them to create prototypes for products and services that solve pressing social problems.  This inaugural year, the 7-week program brings together 11 Chinese graduate students from Tsinghua with 9 Seattle students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels to work together on cross-cultural, interdisciplinary teams.

This summer’s teams have created projects on concepts as diverse as a social network to encourage reuse of home-generated trash for art projects, a phone and tablet application to support elementary school education outside of the home, a web site for creating and viewing video montages of multiple perspectives on world events and history, a tablet-based drawing application to help young children express emotions, and a wearable sensor and display to encourage taking micro-exercise breaks.

The student teams will present their final projects to the public in presentations and a poster session on Friday, August 24th from 10 AM –1 PM in The Gates Commons of the Paul G. Allen Center for Computer Science & Engineering at the University of Washington.  For more information on attending this event, please see  The Seattle presentations will be followed by presentations in Beijing on September 14th and 15th.