KUED Airs Documentary About Empathy Revolution

Press Release

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 - 9:00pm


At a time of unprecedented global challenges, the under-30 "millenial" generation has every reason to be fatalistic and disengaged. Yet, in fields ranging from public health to education, plenty of young people are engaged. Call it the empathy revolution. 

Extreme by Design, a new documentary produced by Hawkview Pictures and Kikim Media, premieres Wednesday, December 11 at 9:00 pm on KUED. 

The documentary vividly brings to life an educational sensation at Stanford University by capturing the experience of 40 students from the Institute of Design as they design and build products that may save thousands of lives in Bangladesh, Indonesia, and other developing countries they visit. The students use the “Design Thinking” approach being taught in a class called “Design for Extreme Affordability.”

The student teams, from multidisciplinary backgrounds, apply freewheeling design methods, tapping previously undiscovered creativity. They draw on methods from engineering and design, and combine them with ideas from the arts, tools from the social sciences, and insights from the business world. Believing that they can and will make a difference, the students open their hearts and brains and remarkably, almost magically, their products take shape and work.

Extreme by Design follows one principal student from each of three teams. The physical, mental and emotional challenges each participant faces create a compelling narrative and teach them important lessons along the way.

  • Pam, 29, a second-year MBA candidate whose team works to create a breathing device that helps prevent infant pneumonia deaths in Bangladesh. While their idea is successful, do they have what it takes to make the product commercially viable?
  • Durell, 22, an engineering student and track star, whose team devises ways to store drinking water for remote villages in Indonesia. The team must use modern science, but also embrace longstanding traditions held by the villagers they are there to help.
  • Seth, 29, an Iraqi war veteran and first-year MBA candidate, whose team builds a low--cost IV infusion device for use in developing countries. The device requires complex design, but the team has only one engineer.

Now in its tenth year, “Design for Extreme Affordability,” taught by a multidisciplinary team of Stanford faculty that includes Jim Patell, Dave Beach, Stuart Coulson and Julian Gorodsky, has developed a global reputation for game-changing solutions to problems in the developing world. One nonprofit that came from the course, Embrace, makes an infant warming device that costs less than one percent of a traditional incubator. This device is positioned to save the lives of 100,000 premature babies in the next three years.

“I hope this film will inspire the next generation of social problem solvers,” stated Hawkview Pictures Producer Ralph King, who also directed the film. “At a time when new ways of thinking about education are taking hold in American classrooms, Design Thinking can play a critical role in helping young people compete in the global economy and pursue careers in public service. The film is a showcase for what many people consider to be the crown jewel of 21st-century education. I’d like to expose it to a much larger community invested in education’s future.”

To co-produce the film, King enlisted Michael Schwarz and his team at Kikim Media, which has brought many notable projects to PBS including The Botany of Desire.  “At Kikim Media, we say that a true story, honestly told, can change lives,” said Schwarz. “Extreme by Design is our definition of that kind of story: it portrays teams of medical, engineering and business students who are designing low-cost products that address big world problems. And at its heart is the concept of Design Thinking, which has proven to be one of the most innovative and effective ways to solve a whole range of problems. So it seemed the perfect kind of project for us to take on.”


Last modified: 
Monday, November 18, 2013 - 4:49pm