Penn College industrial design major studies in Japan

WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. — A Pennsylvania College of Technology student was one of 20 scholars worldwide to participate in a Japan-based industrial design program.

Dwight D. Alexander, of Umatilla, Florida, completed a four-day workshop at the Kobe University International Innovation Design School in Kobe, Japan. Students from the United States, Poland and Japan attended the program, which required participants to design an innovative product and evaluate how the product will enhance future society.

“It was an adventure. I wanted to go to make more connections, meet new people,” said Alexander, who is scheduled to graduate in December with an industrial design bachelor’s degree. “I can build off of what I learned there and apply it here, where we learn the techniques and technology to transform ideas into practical designs.”

At Kobe University, students employed the “metaphor method,” requiring them to consider attributes from existing things, such as an animal, to solve their design problems. Alexander’s four-person group derived inspiration from bats in creating the Bat Survival Kit, a Swiss Army knife-type device, incorporating a water-purifying straw and a camera.

“The camera had propellers. You could throw it in the air and it would give you a 360-degree view of what’s around you while it’s slowly coming down. You could control it via your smartphone,” Alexander said.

Thomas E. Ask, professor of industrial design at Penn College, learned of the Kobe University program while attending the Fourth International Conference on Design Creativity in Atlanta. He presented the opportunity to his students, and Alexander seized it.

“The program is a good fit for our interests, namely it is international, interdisciplinary, creative and technical,” Ask said.

Alexander’s 12-hour days featured more than hands-on design work. The students attended lectures by industry experts on topics such as sketch-based interfaces for 3-D modeling, foresight methodology and cognitive dimension in design.

They also toured the Mitsubishi Electric Corp. factory in Kobe and visited the RIKEN Advanced Institute for Computational Science, which is home to the K computer, Japan’s fastest supercomputer.

“That was amazing to see,” said Alexander, who serves as the secretary and treasurer of both the Penn College student chapter of the Industrial Design Society of America and the college’s Society of Inventors and Mad Scientists.

In addition to the Japanese experience, Alexander’s education includes a remote, semester-long internship with Nexeon MedSystems Inc., a global medical device company headquartered in Dallas. Researching a neuro stimulator for people suffering from atrial fibrillation reflected his career goal of “using industrial design to create a better tomorrow.”

Alexander is designing a two-seat sports coupe for his senior capstone project. His dream is to design cars for Tesla, known for its electric vehicles.

“Dwight is passionate about design,” Ask said. “He combines passion with good people skills to create compelling work.”

As he weighs full-time employment versus graduate studies, Alexander is unequivocal that Penn College has been the right school for him. It was his last stop on an 18th-birthday tour of northeastern colleges and universities.

“Right after the visit and talking to Tom (Ask), I knew this was the place for me,” Alexander said. “He was so energetic, and it was obvious that he knew what he was doing. I really felt confident that he would lead me in the right direction. That’s been proven with my recent trip to Japan.”

For information on Penn College’s industrial design degree and other programs offered by the School of Industrial, Computing & Engineering Technologies, call 570-327-4520 or visit www.pct.edu/icet.

Penn College is a national leader in applied technology education and workforce development. Visit www.pct.edu, email admissions@pct.edu or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Last Updated October 27, 2017