What is Extreme?

Design for Extreme Affordability (officially listed at Stanford as ME206a-b/OIT333-334 and fondly called “Extreme”) is a two-quarter course offered by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design through the Graduate School of Business and the School of Mechanical Engineering.  This multidisciplinary project-based experience creates an enabling environment in which students learn to design products and services that will change the lives of the world’s poorest citizens.  Students work directly with course partners on real world problems, the culmination of which is actual implementation and real change.

Each year, 40 Stanford graduate students from across campus engage with 5 global partners to produce 10 transformative projects.  The students participate in a human-centered design process that leads them to establish deep empathy with their users while using radical collaboration to iterate on seemingly impossible and extremely affordable solutions.  Post-Extreme, solutions create impact either through implementation by the partner, new independent student-led organizations, or another appropriate organization.

Over the past 13 years, Extreme itself has gone through many iterations.  489 students have worked on 120 high-impact projects in 27 countries.  The class would not succeed without the collaboration of the dedicated committed community around it.  Tremendous effort and resources make up each class session.  While Extreme is led by seasoned faculty members, the class would not be successful without the dedication of the students, partners, coaches, and greater 
teaching team.

Who are these dedicated individuals?

  • Students:  40 students from all seven schools within Stanford come together for the six month Extreme challenge. Click here for more details on the class and to apply.
  • Teaching Team: GSB and ME faculty professors co-teach supported by a diverse team. Teaching Team Bios.
  • Coaches:  Course alumni and respected experts in design guide student teams through the design process and help them find access to needed resources.
  • Partners:  Each year, five organizations from around the world develop a wish list for Extreme teams and host team representatives during their Spring Break need finding trips. More info on partners.
  • Funders: Thanks to generous organizations and individuals, we are able to offer students dedicated work space, access to prototyping tools and machines, travel to partner sites and post-course funding for further project development. Contact us for opportunites to provide funding.

2017 Design for Extreme Affordability Two Pager.pdf


 “I keep asking why 90% of the world’s designers work exclusively on products for the richest 10% of the world’s customers.”  Dr. Paul Polak, International Development enterprises, “Out of Poverty”