Ohio University Team Wins AbilityOne Design Challenge

Ohio University Students Set the Bar High in AbilityOne Design Challenge

AbilityOne Encourages College Students to Form Teams and Currently is Calling for Entries for AbilityOne Design Challenge 2014

VIENNA, VA, June 19, 2013 — With their award-winning device, The EZ Squeeze, a team of five students from Ohio University won $10,000 by placing first in the AbilityOne® Design Challenge – a national competition that encourages engineering students to develop assistive technologies that empower people with disabilities to break through barriers to employment. The awards were announced June 19 in Washington, DC, during the annual Grassroots Advocacy Conference sponsored by NISH, one of two federally designated nonprofit agencies which facilitate the AbilityOne Program.

Working with SW Resources, a community-based non-profit agency in Athens, OH, that trains and employs people with significant disabilities, the team created the device that transfers high viscosity polishing fluid from large containers to small sample containers using air injection. Prior to the device, employees were required to transfer the fluid by manually squeezing the large plastic containers and filling the small containers. The task was strenuous and inefficient, even for people without disabilities. At the time, SW Resources had only two employees with the physical ability required to perform the task.

The Ohio University team members Jeremy Ruff, Rob Garlock, Devin DeBoer, Mitch Harble and Juncheng Yao worked closely with SW Resources, which employs people with disabilities through the AbilityOne Program, to design the device which has made it possible for an additional 140 of 144 employees to perform the task. The "EZ-Squeeze" additionally provides 15.6% less waste and increases productivity by 500%.

To see the device in action, check out the video.

"Finding innovative ways to break down barriers to employment for people with significant disabilities is crucial to their development in our communities," said NISH President and CEO Bob Chamberlin. "We are excited about this year's winners because their designs reflect great passion, dedication and innovation."

This year's other college finalists include:

Second Place Winner(Trophy and $5,000 award)

  • Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology's Work Assistive Cornstarch Dispensing System

The "Cornstarch Dispensing System" is a device that transfers two teaspoons of cornstarch into small plastic bags using a motorized chute and gate system. The device increased productivity by 290% and opened the job to employees with poor fine motor skills and allergies to cornstarch. In addition, the "Cornstarch Dispensing System" created a significantly safer working environment by reducing spillage which previously caused dangerously slick floors.

View Video of the Work Assistive Cornstarch Dispensing System

Third Place Winner(Trophy and $3,000 award)

  • United States Military Academy’s SAIL: Stapler Assembly to Improve Lives

The "SAIL" is a workstation that aids workers who assemble staplers from 11 parts. The device created a significantly more ergonomic and functional workstation by decreasing repetitive arm extension and body strain, and increasing organization of assembly part layout. The "SAIL" also increased assembly productivity by 28.1% and workstation productivity by up to 20%.

View video of the "SAIL"

The AbilityOne Design Challenge is a competitive process that requires students to build a functioning prototype. Their submissions must prove to be a solution to a barrier that prevents a person with a significant disability from entering or advancing in the workplace. Entries must be developed in collaboration with a person with a disability or a NISH-affiliated nonprofit organization that is part of the AbilityOne Program.

The AbilityOne Design Challenge 2013 is inviting college students to apply their talents, knowledge, innovation and technology to overcoming workplace barriers by designing a prototype or system that will create greater access to employment for people with disabilities. Entries are eligible to win cash prizes up to $10,000.

The annual competition is sponsored by NISH, a national nonprofit organization whose mission is to increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

For more information, visit www.a1designchallenge.org.


The Institute for Economic Empowerment
The Institute for Economic Empowerment conducts research, demonstration, and development projects to reach the strategic goal of full and fair employment for individuals with significant disabilities, particularly those facing the most significant disability-related barriers to employment. The Institute was founded by NISH, a nonprofit agency that develops and maintains employment and training opportunities for people with significant disabilities.

NISH–Creating Employment for People with Significant Disabilities
Established in 1974, NISH is one of two national, nonprofit agencies designated by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission®to support nonprofit agencies (NPAs) participating in the AbilityOne® Program. NISH provides employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities by procuring Federal contracts for goods and services. Headquartered in Vienna, VA, NISH supports a network of more than 1,200 NPAs as well as Federal customers by providing legislative and regulatory assistance, communications and public relations materials, information technology support, engineering and technical assistance, and extensive professional training needed for successful contract management.

AbilityOne Program
Providing employment opportunities to more than 50,000 people, the AbilityOne® Program is the largest single source of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities in the United States. Nearly 600 participating nonprofit organizations employ these individuals and provide quality goods and services to the Federal Government at a fair market price. The AbilityOne Program is administered by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission®, an independent Federal agency.

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Media Contacts

Inquiries regarding SourceAmerica, the AbilityOne® Program or general disability information may be directed to: Teresa Libera, Corporate Communications, 571-226-4586 tlibera@sourceamerica.org.