Mark A. Philbrick, BYU Photo
BYU assistant professor Christopher Mattson has received grant from National Science Foundation.

PROVO — Faster cars, sleeker computers, shinier toys.

Most of the products designed by mechanical engineers are made for the wealthy.

But not anymore.

BYU assistant professor of mechanical engineering Christopher Mattson just received a $400,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to rethink engineering and how it can help the poor.

"We're really after figuring out, discovering, validating, then presenting to the world the design principles you would use to create products that help people increase their income," Mattson said.

Mattson and his team of undergraduate and graduate students will study different cultures and research how to design products that will be not only income generating, but also inexpensive and expandable.

One example might be creating an inexpensive mixer to make bread. As an individual makes money by selling the bread, he or she could buy additional parts that would then allow him or her to make more money and buy even more parts — like a self-funded microloan, Mattson said.

The NSF's prestigious Faculty Early Career Development awards are given to junior faculty members who "exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations," according to the NSF Web site.

Mattson is BYU's seventh professor to be awarded the grant since the program's start in 1995.

e-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com