Beth Kolko
Founder and CEO @ Shift Labs
I'm a researcher, educator, and entrepreneur who blends disciplinary perspectives to identify hidden problems and craft innovative solutions. I began my career as a professor in the humanities, studying how diverse communities used a then text-based Internet to organize and enact change. After a decade of work on technology adoption, adaptation, and usage patterns in low resource communities around the world, I became a professor in engineering in order to collaborate on building better solutions to intransigent problems. My current work focuses on the potential of non-experts to create disruptive solutions, and I build programs that help people become functional engineers so they can solve problems in their communities. I hold a position as Professor of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington where I co-direct the Tactical and Tactile Technology Lab (formerly the Design for Digital Inclusion lab). At UW I also created the Hackademia Project which builds innovation potential among broad audiences by imparting functional engineering skills combined with design thinking. Hackademia grows out of my experience since 2006 in makerspaces and hackerspaces and is an effort to amplify the non-expert innovation that happens outside of formal institutional settings. My technology development projects have included work on a low-cost ultrasound system for midwives in Uganda and a grassroots public transportation information system in Kyrgyzstan. I am co-founder and CEO of Shift Labs, a for-profit company building low-cost medical devices for emerging markets leveraging global innovation networks. I've been the Director of Innovation at the Makerbot Foundation (2013), a Fulbright professor at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (2000), a Visiting Faculty Researcher at Microsoft Research (2007), and a Fellow (2007-2009) and Faculty Associate (2009-present) at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. I've lectured around the world, and consulted for a variety of NGOs, including extensive fieldwork in Cambodia, India, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, and Kenya.