Akshay Sharma, associate professor of industrial design for the School of Architecture + Design in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, has received the university’s 2016 Diggs Teaching Scholars Award.

Sponsored by the Center for Instructional Development and Educational Research, the Diggs Teaching Scholars Award was established in 1992 and is presented annually to up to three Virginia Tech faculty members to recognize exceptional contributions to the teaching program and learning environment. Diggs Teaching Scholars are invited to lead the Diggs Roundtable, a series of presentations and a discussion of their innovative teaching.

The award is supported by an endowed fund from an estate gift by the late Edward S. and Hattie Wilson Diggs. Edward Diggs was a 1914 graduate of Virginia Tech.

Sharma will use the Diggs Teaching Scholar Award to design and develop a series of short videos and a booklet that will outline his strategy for distributed collaboration across classes by using the cell phone charging solution designed for sub-Saharan Africa and rural India as an example.

Sharma’s research and outreach work focuses on people around the world who exist on $2 a day or less. He uses his design skills to empower this group, especially the women and children who tend to suffer the most severe consequences of their situation.

Among his many scholarly contributions to his field of research, Sharma also takes a more hands-on approach through Design for the Bottom of the Pyramid, a cross-disciplinary studio course Sharma has taught for the past six years. Students are challenged to take on a different need of people who live on $2 a day or less around the world and develop a program or device to help find a solution.

Their impact doesn’t stop in the classroom, though. Every winter break Sharma brings a group of students from the course to India to test their projects with the intended group, share their projects with local NGOs, and to get an immersive experience in a new and different culture.

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