UK students told to build torture device

Professor hopes to make students aware of ergonomics

Homework is not meant to be comfortable. But one British professor’s efforts to get his students to create fully operational torture devices has even some of his colleagues wincing.

Students at Kent University School of Architecture in southeast England were asked to manufacture the devices as part of an attempt to sensitize them to the principles of ergonomics – the science of reducing fatigue and discomfort.

A copy of the assignment – entitled “Torture” – was carried on the website of The Architect’s Journal.

The journal said the assignment was written by Kent University tutor Mike Richards.

No one at the university or the Royal Institute of British Architects immediately responded to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment Saturday. But The Guardian newspaper quoted one of the institute’s former presidents, Paul Hyatt, as saying he was appalled.

The copy of the assignment on the website showed a diagram of a Gestapo electric torture table and invited students to “look at the dark side of ergonomics.”

“Proposals have to be realizable in 2008…. No Sci-Fi devices please,” the assignment said. “It has to be fit for purpose, robust and effective and well thought out; it has to work.”

The assignment suggested using recycled material. It also warned against careless use of electricity.

“We don’t want you to become a victim of your own device,” it said.

– with a report from CP