Raja Schaar, MAAE, IDSA
Assistant Professor of Product Design
Raja Schaar, MAAE, IDSA, is an assistant professor of product design at Drexel University. She is an industrial designer, museum exhibition designer and STEAM education evangelist. She is an active museum exhibition designer working with community organizations, National Parks, and museums all over the country.
Schaar’s interdisciplinary research focuses on methods engaging girls and underrepresented minorities in STEM/STEAM through design and technology; innovation and entrepreneurship education; healthcare wearables; and biologically inspired design. Her current research collaborations include working with departments of dance, education and computing to uncover STEAM identities in African American girls through the development of performance-driven wearable technology; developing pedagogy with Drexel University’s Schools of Biomedical Engineering and Entrepreneurship to examine the role of clinical immersion on product innovation; and working with the College of Nursing to develop a pre-diagnostic wearable device for pre-eclampsia in low-resource communities.
As an educator, Schaar works to infuse her teaching with human-centered design methodologies that address real-world problems. Schaar pushes her students to apply design thinking, making and life cycle analysis to the development of devices and products that positively and sustainably impact the lives of users. She also coordinates industry partnerships and sponsored studios with companies like Devialet and Hubbell.
Her approach is fueled by 15+ years of experience as an industrial designer and university design instructor. Previously, she taught at Georgia Tech in both the Colleges of Design and Engineering. Favorite course topics include global healthcare, wearable technology, impact design and biologically-inspired design.
Schaar also has served as coordinator of school programs at the High Museum of Art; director of programs and operations at Museum of Design Atlanta; and design instructor of the Georgia Governor’s Honors program. She’s developed and led numerous ID summer camps to nurture an early interest in design. Schaar speaks on ID, design and STEAM education at conferences and workshops all across United States, including at TEDx.
Schaar received her BSID from GA Tech and her MA in art education from the School of Art Institute of Chicago.
Statement of Candidacy
It is an honor to be nominated for Education Director on IDSA’s Board of Directors. I consider myself a life-long educator and life-long learner. I believe my experience and ideas will resonate with educators and students at all stages of their ID careers.
I have taught at the high school level, developed ID summer camps, taught at an elite governor’s school, community workshops and museums. I have had the privilege of teaching ID at the university level since 2004 as a part-time and full-time lecturer, machine shop manager and now tenure-track assistant professor. As a university educator I have taught at all levels—from foundation programs to PhD advising—developing and coordinating undergraduate and graduate curriculum for future industrial designers, architects and biomedical engineers at Georgia Tech and Drexel University. I have a strong commitment to interdisciplinary collaboration and I firmly believe that design is at the center of innovation.
IDSA has a strong reputation as an organization with a tangible commitment to education through student chapters, local chapter outreach, District Design Conferences and Student Merit Awards. I am excited for the opportunity to be a part of that mission at an influential level. While issues related to curriculum development, student/industry engagement, professional preparation and networking must continue to be a part of the larger conversation, we also need to be inclusive of our evolving field and community. As education director, I want to make sure that we have targeted discussions that address the following four areas:
- Diversity and Inclusion. Addressing particularly industry representation by women and underrepresented minorities who frequently feel excluded from the wider design community, I would like to work with the Board and chapters to examine ways IDSA might address retention through outreach, mentorship and industry/campus engagement.
- K-12 Outreach. How might professional chapters and student chapters make ID more visible to their local K-12 communities? Let’s examine and enact methods and strategies to promote ID earlier in the K-12 pipeline. If we treat design and problem solving as a basic literacy, we can nurture skilled thinkers and makers to grow our profession. Schools are already attempting this through STEM education, but we need to be sure that design is part of the equation.
- Ethics. As the discipline of ID evolves and new technologies get more exciting, we need to reexamine our commitment to the ethical implications of our profession. How do we engage students, faculty and professionals in meaningful critical thinking about design’s impact on the environment and society that goes beyond greenwashing? How does this manifest in curriculum and continuing education?
- Academic Journal. Assemble an exploratory committee to investigate the creation of a peer-reviewed academic journal of industrial design as a repository of ID research, scholarship, case studies and best practices. The committee would look into feasibility, format, funding and standards.