Research

Beth Kolko's Research Group Archive

The following research group descriptions are archived because they are no longer offered, the faculty member is on sabbatical, or the group is taking a break. Please contact the faculty member or an advisor to learn more about these groups.

The Final Frontier: Human-Centered Space Technologies 

Spring 2019

Meeting times: Wednesdays, 1–2:15 p.m.
Instructor: Professor Beth Kolko

So it looks like humans are headed to Mars. And staying a while. If we want to have viable settlements on Mars, we will need more than science and technology. We’ll need all the other things that make up human society — art, music, food, play. Even Star Trek had Shakespeare. Today, most of the time, attention and money spent on figuring out space exploration is focused on ensuring people don’t blow up — a laudable goal. Let’s assume those problems are taken care of at some point. What comes next? This will be the first quarter of an ongoing exploration of this topic. We’ll read articles from HCI-related fields about human-centered space design, we’ll read some science fiction for inspiration, and our goal by the end of the quarter will be to generate a list and description of potential research projects on the topic of Human Centered Design for Space Exploration.

The group is open to undergraduates, MS and PhD students. To register, contact bkolko@uw.edu with a one-paragraph explanation of why you want to join this group.


Hackademia: Learning CNC Machining to Resist the Robot Takeover

Autumn 2017

We hear more and more that people are afraid robots are going to take their jobs - and they are right! - but that doesn't mean anyone has to really get left behind. 

This group will work with the founder of a machining company, Danielle Applestone, and Professor Kolko to explore how to make it easier for non-technical people to learn how to design, build, and run robots, even without formal education. 

Over two quarters, we will do the work and the research to create a scalable, deployable program that makes it possible for non-technical people to gain proficiency and familiarity with robots that manufacture parts for everything from electronics, to prosthetic hands, to jewelry.

No 3D printers this time. We'll be working with CNC (computer numerical control) machines. No specific technical skills are required. If you can put together Ikea furniture, you've got the necessary tool set for the group.

The group will be coordinated by faculty member Kolko, and we'll be working with Danielle who is CEO of Bantam Tools. The goal is to create a program that can be deployed eventually to hundreds of libraries, community centers, and makerspaces, where anyone from any background can gain access to manufacturing robots and learn how to use them. This is a great opportunity to gain hands on experience learning tools, to create educational materials to help others learn tools, and to conduct ongoing research on technical skill acquisition in non-formal educational settings.

This DRG is planned over two quarters. We will first build a familiarity with desktop CNC machines through a set of three most basic projects: one for electronics, one for simple engraving, and one for basic 2.5 dimension objects. 

The first goal with immersion into these three projects is to reflect on this process and determine where the biggest sources of friction are in the learning and doing process and devise a method for removing these sources of friction with a training plan. Is there friction in downloading the software? Gathering materials? Fear of the machines? 

The second goal is to figure out the optimal organization for group training and create a playbook. What background information do people need to know? What size group is best for getting to know these machines? How many facilitators do you need per group member? 

By the end of the first quarter, we'll have drafted a playbook and training plan. 

In the second quarter,  we'll test out the training plan and playbook with a small group of people from the community and refine based on what we learn.

We'll be working with folks in several geographies to deploy what we develop, so this is a great opportunity to see your work get broad dissemination.


Human-Centered Design and Entrepreneurship

Winter 2017

2 Credit Directed Research Group

Design thinking has made its way to business schools, startup culture and conferences (Lean Startup), and even life coaching (http://web.stanford.edu/class/me104b/cgi-bin/). In this research group, we'll explore how an HCDE background can be leveraged for startup success.

We'll be doing some reading, listening to some visitors from the startup community, and doing some interviewing of startup founders to learn more about their background and approach to problem-solving. The goal of this group is to help articulate the habits of mind integral to HCDE that are directly relevant to building a startup.

The group will meet Wednesdays from 8:30-9:30 a.m.

To apply, contact Professor Kolko at bkolko@uw.edu with a short email describing your interest in the topic.

About this group: A few years ago, I started a medical device company called Shift Labs. Our company went through Y Combinator in 2015, and our flagship product was just named one of the 12 most important healthcare innovations of 2016 by Popular Science.

In the past several years, I've been continually delighted by the ways HCDE has provided a valuable framework for startup growth, and I'm leading this DRG to provide an opportunity for students to better understand connections between HCDE curriculum and research and what it means to build an organization, a product, a customer base, a revenue model, and all the other components that go into growing a sustainable startup.


Hackademia: CAD and 3D printing extravaganza

In the fall of 2012, the Hackademia project is going to focus on 3D modelling and printing. We have two Makerbots that need a little TLC, and we'll be asking two students to take the lead on tuning them and helping them stay happy. Some students may also wish to make their own 3D printers from various open source projects, and there are a bunch of other 3D printing facilities on campus open to all students.
 
On the software side of things, we'll experiment with a handful of different tools; no prior experience is necessary. We'll look at free packages like Autocad (free for students) and 123D, and other programs like SketchUp, ReplicatorG, and Blender. If you have access to Solidworks or want to invest in a copy, that's welcome, too!
 
Students will have the option to work alone or in groups, and the goal is to design and print a substantive, shareable (on thingiverse) project by the end of the quarter. The only prerequisite is an interest in learning how to do 3D -- no specific technical experience is required.
 
The group is open to undergrads and graduate students of any major/department. We'll be meeting on Tuesday from 9:00-10:30. Enrollment is limited, so please email Beth Kolko at bkolko@uw.edu sooner rather than later to secure a spot. HCDE students Nikki Lee and Julia Chamberlain will be helping run the group, so feel free to ask them questions as well: Nikki Lee, Julia Chamberlain.
 
3D printing is awesome and will potentially change everything. It's also super great for prototyping. Come learn about it!

Design as Futurism (aka Science Fiction Book Club)
 
When you build a technology, you're creating something that shapes the world not just today, not just tomorrow, but for years to come. It can be challenging to conceptualize how our design choices are likely to impact individuals and society, and so we often don't do the work to extrapolate the consequences of our design choices. Doing so requires situating technology within societal and institutional structures and understanding enough about those structures to make informed decisions. In this research group we'll use an alternative way of thinking about the implications of the technologies we work to create -- a speculative approach. We'll read 3 to 4 science fiction novels together and discuss them with an eye to how the core technologies at the heart of the books interact with societal structures to create the future world that is depicted. In addition, each group member will do two pieces of speculative writing of their own for the group to discuss. This will take the form of imagined future news stories, blog posts, or abstracts of scientific papers. In this writing, you will take a core technology that exists today and speculate how it may interact with societal and institutional structures to create a possible future. 
Maximum enrollment: 10 students.
 

Safer conception with mHealth
 
For serodiscordant couples -- in which one partner has HIV and one does not -- attempting to conceive a child brings with it the risk of transmission. More robust fertility planning in combination with treatment adherence can reduce the risk of transmission. As part of larger NIH-funded project in conjunction with UW Global Health researchers, we’ll be working with Kenyan partners to pilot an mHealth intervention that has a mobile component aimed at clinicians working with serodiscordant couples who are trying to conceive. 
This winter we’ll be prototyping the front end of an Android app for the clinicians to use for counseling couples on their antiretroviral treatment adherence, pre-exposure prophylaxis, and fertility cycles with the goal of reducing transmission during conception. The prototype[s] will then be reviewed by clinicians before developing the app. 
We invite students with experience prototyping and an interest in mHealth to this DRG co-led by PhD student Kristin Dew and Prof. Beth Kolko. You must have experience prototyping and be comfortable using Axure.

Qualitative research methods for low-resource environments 

Led by UW HCDE and iHub Nairobi
Lead instructors: Beth Kolko (HCDE), Angela Crandall (iHub Research), Mark Kamau (iHub UX Lab)
 
HCDE 496/596 is 2 credits
 
About *iHub_:
*iHub_, the first of its kind in Kenya, has spurred a revolution in the African technology products and services space by giving the local tech community support needed to bring ideas to life. Our mission is to catalyze the Nairobi tech community’s growth and we do this through surfacing information, connecting people, and supporting start-ups.
In addition to the facility itself, *iHub_ leverages on its initiatives to provide value-added services to the tech community:
iHub Research focuses on technology and its uses in East Africa. We facilitate local research capacity building and conduct local qualitative and quantitative research in East Africa, by East Africans. By bringing information on technology and its uses to the technology community, we enable entrepreneurs and developers to make better decisions on what to build and how to build it.
iHub UX Lab focuses on the use of Human Centered Design methods to develop solutions for African challenges.  We facilitate the development of a User Experience Design culture by enabling the community embrace user experience research and design approaches in the development of products and services. We help the community put the user first at the center of their approach. This means that more products are relevant, contextualized, and meet the needs of people they target.
 
This is a joint research group between UW HCDE and *iHub_ on new or adapted qualitative research methods in low resource environments. This will be a collaborative group that brings together researchers from Nairobi and Seattle to develop and deploy sound, innovative qualitative research methods. We will be working on a technology project jointly developed with UW and the global health NGO PATH -- a low-cost flash-heat pasteurizing system for human breast milk that allows babies to be safely fed donor breast milk.
 
The group will begin with a joint reading group focused on UX with a focus on global issues, and we will then spend the bulk of the quarter designing and conducting a study around the pasteurization system. Seattle students will work on teams with Nairobi-based researchers.  The objective of the group is to adapt research methods to low-resource environments by running tests in users' contexts. 

Design for Digital Inclusion (Winter 2012)
 
For Winter 2012, the DDI research group will team up with Computer Science and Engineering to research and prototype health technologies for low resource communities. This work will occur in conjunction with the newly awarded NSF project to create a Mobile Wellness Toolkit and with the CSE undergraduate senior capstone class taught by Richard Anderson and Ruth Anderson in spring 2012.
 
HCDE and CSE students will meet once a week together in Winter 2012 to work on project scoping, performing user research, and assessing the technology landscape for projects related to low resource communities in the Seattle area and internationally. Students are encouraged to continue their participation into Spring 2012 when the CSE students will be turning the project ideas into prototypes as part of their capstone projects. HCDE team members would then provide design input, perform evaluation and user testing, and work on UI. You can enroll for only one quarter, but students are encouraged to participate in the entire design process. Both undergraduates and graduate students are welcome.
In Winter quarter the class will meet Wednesdays from 4–5:50 pm. Students should expect to enroll for 2–3 credits. Undergraduate students must have completed HCDE 417, HCDE 418, or HCDE 419. If you'd like more details, we'll be holding an information session at 5pm on Thursday, Dec 8, in CSE 203.
 
This should be an exciting opportunity to work on projects with real impact. We've done similar collaborations for the past three years and it has been very successful. Each year, we have had projects that have gone all the way to real deployments and have resulted in publications in research workshops and conferences, as well as successful grant applications.

Collecting and Visualizing Difficult to Access Data
 
The purpose of this research group is to familiarize students with the processes and practical complexities involved in obtaining electronic data, both domestically and abroad, and to learn skills for visualization of social and economic data. While conducting online research, data that may initially seem public and easily obtainable may actually pose significant problems in locating. Some data, for example, may be accessible only through private corporations, hard to access portions in sites of international agencies (the UN website, for example, can be very difficult to navigate for specific data), or through contacting governments agencies directly. There is a significant challenge not just in collecting the data, but in visualizing and providing them in a format that other researchers can easily use.
 
As part of the research group, students will put to practice skills and techniques in collecting electronic data by assisting in a project titled Investigating the Social and Economic Impact of Public Access to Information and Communication Technology (IPAI), a five-year, $7.2 million research project sponsored by Canada's International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The project is managed by telecentre.org in partnership with the Center for Information & Society at the University of Washington Information School.
 
Over the last decade, governments, international development agencies, foundations, and corporations have made significant investments to increase public access to information and communication technology (ICT), particularly in developing countries. As these investments continue to grow, questions are being raised about their social and economic impact, particularly:
  • What are the observable social and economic impacts of public access to ICT?
  • What is the magnitude of these impacts and how can we measure them?
  • What is the relationship between costs and benefits of providing public access to ICT?
The project will answer these questions using longitudinal and comparative research approaches. It will examine the impact of a range of shared, public access to ICT models, such as the provision of ICT in libraries and telecentres, as well as other models and innovations that will emerge over the next five years. The research will examine both positive and negative impacts on populations' well-being in the areas of employment and income, education, civic engagement, democracy and governmental transparency, culture and language preservation, and health, among others.
 
To this end, it is vitally important to know what data are currently available so research is not duplicated needlessly and data can be provided in a format useful to the study. As the research focuses on developing countries, locating much of this data may be tricky. Such data may include the number of Internet cafés in a country or the Internet literacy rate of populations. In addition, obtaining data that can help to put socio-economic indicators in perspective are also vital and equally difficult to obtain. Such data may include shape files for maps.
 
Throughout the research group students will learn skills for obtaining difficult to locate data, gain practice in recognizing reliable data, have the chance to collaborate with researchers in a multi-country research project, and be given the opportunity to work with and analyze the data they collect. It is expected that students’ work will directly contribute to and be incorporated into the IPAI project.  The result will be an enhanced understanding of the kinds of issues researchers face when collecting data and how this translates into better presentation and visualization designs for displaying data and making them open and accessible.
 
Students will be expected to carefully document on a wiki their progress throughout the project. In addition, other work will include an informal paper at the end of the quarter that summarizes the successes and failures of research processes, positive outcomes and dead-ends encountered when visiting websites and contacting sources, and any other observations. (Understanding difficulties is just as important as understanding best practices so students are encouraged to be as open and detailed as possible when discussing their progress.) In addition, students will be able to design a project that involves visualization or formatting the data they collect.
 
If students desire, they will have the opportunity to create additional outputs that may include research reports, publications, or conference presentations.
The research group will be taken as CR/NC. Students will have the option of signing up for between 2 and 5 credits. Meeting times are tba, but the group will meet at least once a week. The course is open to graduate students (TC 596) and advanced undergraduate students (TC 496) in any discipline.
 
The research group will have an instructional team. TC instructor of record will be Beth Kolko, and course instructors will be Araba Sey, Chris Rothschild, and Willem Scholten.

Digital Games Research Group
 
The Digital Games Research Group brings together people who are interested in games, gaming, interaction, community, underserved populations, and mobile devices. Our goal for the next several quarters will be to (a) research how games provide implicit and explicit messaging through play, (b) how to repurpose or redesign that messaging to further social impact goals, and, (c) testing and deploying games on mobile platforms in international and domestic contexts.
 
Our primary goal will be to develop and deploy at least two games that help further the goals of international and community development projects. The mobile platform is the most likely development environment, but we can also explore other alternatives, including web-based games and alternative reality games.

Students with gaming experience, design experience, and mobile development experience are all encouraged to join the group. In addition, we welcome students interested in international and/or community development.


Hackademia Spring Code Jam

This Spring, Hackademia is sponsoring a 2-credit, hands-on technical skills workshop for HCDE students coordinated by Beth Kolko, Alexis Hope, and Behzod Sirjani. We encourage both undergraduates and graduate students to join. We'll spend the quarter working together to learn HTML5 & Javascript, and we'll complete projects in small teams using these tools. Students should expect to take an active role in leading the direction of skills learned and projects attempted—this will be an open-ended, collaborative learning experience!

Students interested in participating are encouraged to enroll for HCDE 496 (for undergraduates) or HCDE 596 (for graduate students) for 2 credits.
For more information, contact Alexis Hope (alexishg@uw.edu) or Beth Kolko (bkolko@uw.edu).

Hackademia (Winter 2012)
 
Hackademia is an attempt to break down the “two cultures” problem by introducing students not from technical disciplines to technical skills through hands-on, informal activities that bypass traditional notions of expertise. The project draws from the ethos and mindset of hacker and maker communities.
 
For Winter 2012, Human Centered Design & Engineering Professor Beth Kolko is looking for students to join the Hackademia research group.
 
C.P. Snow once wrote about the "two cultures" problem, what he referred to as the "supposedly impenetrable barrier" that separates the humanities from the sciences. Snow went on to write: "One camp views the other as technical, narrow, not to say blinkered...while the opposing camp dismisses the first as ineffective, not to say irrelevant. The issue permeates the discussions of what constitute true science, how the educational system should be organized and what education should really be all about. It engenders resentments and jealousies."
 
Students interested in seeing how close we can bring Snow's two cultures together through a hands-on, collaborative learning activity are encouraged to enroll for HCDE 496 (for undergraduates) or HCDE 596 (for graduate students) for 2-3 credits. Students in the humanities and social sciences, who have limited (or zero!) background in science, engineering, or other technical areas are enthusiastically encouraged to apply.
 
We'll build something during the quarter, but I don't know what it is yet. In past quarters, student groups assembled a 3-D printer, worked on an interactive story, and created wearable technology. We’ll also create some videos that introduce non-experts to how and why to use different tools (everything from a hammer to blinky LEDs). There is also room to investigate other questions that you find interesting in this general area.
 
Things I can say with certainty: you should expect to learn new things, and to keep track of how and what you learn through the quarter. This is a participant-observer kind of research project. I'll explain what that means at our first meeting. Technical skills required include: the ability to email.

Understanding Health in Diverse Communities: The Role of Cooking, Food Choices, and Traditional Recipes
 
South King County is one of the most diverse regions in the country, but its residents have some of the lowest health outcomes in the county, including high rates of diabetes. Effective interventions for promoting diabetes management or prevention must be culturally appropriate and grounded in understanding what specific challenges these communities face.
 
This quarter, we will do some readings, identify communities, and go out to the field to investigate attitudes and health behaviors specifically surrounding food. We'll go to the places where people shop and learn how people cook or provide food for their families. We’ll also explore cross-generational and cross-cultural issues related to food.
 
This work is tied to a larger project in HCDE and CSE that is working to create community-generated videos about healthy behaviors and diabetes management. The work of this research group will be able to inform that larger project.
 
Students interested in learning more about ethnographic methods and qualitative research are encouraged to join. If you are interested, please send an e-mail to Robert Racadio (racadio@uw.edu) and Beth Kolko (bkolko@uw.edu) with a brief statement describing your interest in the research group and any experience you have in conducting field research. We will meet on Wednesdays from 12:30PM–1:20PM in Sieg 420.

Designing Technologies for Resource-Constrained Environments (Winter 2013)
 
This is a new research group being offered in Winter 2013 on Wednesdays from 4–5:50, leading up to HCDE 419 Concepts in HCI which will be taught by Professor Starbird in Spring 2013. The winter quarter research group will be led by a team including HCDE faculty Kate Starbird and Beth Kolko and CSE faculty Gaetano Borriello and Ruth Anderson. [This is a slightly different form for the HCDE-CSE collaboration around 419 and CSE capstone that has been running for several years.]
 
In this Winter Directed Research group, HCDE and CSE students will meet together to develop project ideas for technologies specifically designed to meet social impact needs, such as addressing the needs of low resource communities (in the Seattle area and internationally) or designing for disaster and/or humanitarian response. Activities will focus on project scoping, performing user research, and assessing the technology landscape (mobile phones, tablets, embedded sensors, cloud services, SMS, etc.).
 
****If you'd like more details, we'll be holding an information session at 5pm on Thursday Nov 8th in CSE 303. We'll be outlining some initial ideas for this year's projects.**
In Spring quarter, the projects begun in the research group will form the basis of HCDE 419 which is a 5-credit class that will be paired with the 5-credit CSE481K capstone project course The Spring course is for HCDE students to take the ideas developed in Winter and work with CSE students to actually realize a working prototype and complete preliminary evaluations. HCDE 419 is a more traditional course with HCI-focused readings and assignments, and also project-based milestones, demos, and some presentations. We work hard to ensure that projects get connected to real customers who can provide feedback to the development team. The intent is that groups of CSE and HCDE students formed in Winter quarter will continue on to work together in Spring quarter (although there is always some shuffling in that not all students continue on in Spring quarter and some students will enroll in 419 who won't have been in the Winter research group.)
 
The primary audience for the group is undergraduates, although interested graduate students are welcome to attend.
** If you intend to take HCDE 419 in Spring 2013, we encourage you to sign up for this 2-credit research group that will meet Wednesdays from 4-5:50. **
Projects that have come out of similar collaborations include: low-cost milk banking for HIV positive mothers, low-cost ultrasound, converting paper records to digital form, visualizing vaccine cold-chain inventories, and creating health videos for south Seattle immigrant communities. If you have any questions, please contact Kate at kstarbi@uw.edu or Beth at bkolko@uw.edu.
 
More information about research in this area on campus can be found at: http://mwt.cs.washington.edu/ and change.washington.edu.We've done this for the past five years and it has been very successful. Each year, we have had projects that have gone all the way to real deployments and publications in research workshops or conferences.
Here are a few sample projects:
  • StarBus: SMS based vehicle tracking targeting public transportation in Kyrgyzstan. R. Anderson, A. Poon, C. Lustig, W. Brunette, G. Borriello, B. Kolko. Building a Transportation Information System using only GPS and Basic SMS Infrastructure, ICTD 2009.
  • Multilearn: Multi-input device educational games for elementary education in India. C. Tseng, S. Garg, H. Underwood, L. Findlater, R. Anderson, J. Pal. Examining emergent dominance patterns in multiple input based educational systems, IDID 2010.
  • Midwives' ultrasound. Developed an interface for antenatal ultrasound for use by rural midwives in Uganda. W. Brunette, W. Gerard, M. Hicks, A. Hope, M. Ishimitsu, P. Prasad, R. Anderson, G. Borriello, B., Kolko, R. Nathan. Portable Antenatal Ultrasound Platform for Village Midwives, ACM DEV 2010.
  • Milkbank: Developed low-cost milk banking for HIV positive mothers. R. Chaudhri, D. Vlachos, J. Kaza, J. Palludan, N. Bilbao, T. Martin, G. Borriello, B. Kolko, K. Israel-Ballard. 2011. A system for safe flash-heat pasteurization of human breast milk, NSDR 2011.
  • Low-power Sensors and Smartphones for Tracking Water Collection in Rural Ethiopia. R. Chaudhri, R. Sodt, K. Lieberg, J. Chilton, G. Borriello, J. Cook, Y. Masuda. IEEE Pervasive Computing (special issue on Pervasive Information and Communication Technologies for Development – ICT4D), Vol. 11, No. 3, July-September 2012.
  • Digitizing Paper Forms with Mobile Imaging Technologies. N. Dell, N. Breit, T. Chaluco, J. Crawford, G. Borriello. ACM 2nd Annual Symposium on Computing for Development (DEV), Atlanta, Georgia, March 2012.

Socio-cultural Aspects of Maker and Hacker Cultures, Part 1 (Autumn 2013)
 
The rise of public sites for customizing and configuring one's own environment (makerspaces, hackerspaces) is changing how we see products and technologies in our world. This group will tackle socio-cultural issues of self, thing, and environment and their relationship to design and technology development in light of these changes. We'll also question patterns of consumption and production in a world that increasingly accommodates mass customization. Theoretical framings and hands on activities will help organize our examination of these issues. Perspectives include readings from Suchman, (Judith) Butler, Haraway, and recent STS scholars. Additional fieldwork and community engagement will be part of our study and will help us articulate the socio-cultural-technical-political stakes of this project. Required to sign up for 2 credits. Group will meet Wednesdays 4pm-5:30pm in room 429 (TAT Lab). To request a seat in this group, please email both Beth Kolko (bkolko@uw.edu) and Daniela Rosner (dkrosner@uw.edu).

Socio-cultural Aspects of Maker and Hacker Cultures, Part 2 (Winter 2014)

Description: The rise of public sites for customizing and configuring one's own environment (makerspaces, hackerspaces) is changing how we see products and technologies in our world. This research will continue our work from last quarter tackling socio-cultural issues of self, thing, and environment and their relationship to design and technology development in light of these changes. We'll also question patterns of consumption and production in a world that increasingly accommodates mass customization. Theoretical framings and hands on activities will help organize our examination of these issues. Additional fieldwork, community engagement, and design interventions will be part of our study and will help us articulate the socio-cultural-technical-political stakes of this project.