2022 IDEATE Engineering Competition Winners Announced

By SourceAmerica staff 04/15/2022
2022 IDEATE Winners

Student Teams Celebrated for Disability Inclusion Innovation

On April 13, the 2022 IDEATE Virtual Finals event took place with people watching from across the country as the winning student teams were announced. Finalists included five high school teams and three college teams selected from across the country, working to create new tools to help people with disabilities succeed in the workplace. Each team included a subject matter expert (SME)—an individual with a disability that provided feedback and tested the devices.

"This competition is incredibly important to all of us at SourceAmerica," said SourceAmerica President and CEO Richard Belden. "It exemplifies the work we're doing to inspire the next generation to advocate for disability inclusion and to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities."

The online event was accessible with a sign language interpreter and closed captioning. The students and the subject matter experts they worked with joined live via video, and viewers from across the country participated in a lively chat. Members of Congress even attended, with a representative from the Office of Senator Van Hollen posting, "Love seeing all the new opportunities these designs are creating for people!"

After meeting all the teams and hearing about their projects, the event's host and SourceAmerica's Senior Productivity Engineer, Charissa Garcia, announced the winning teams. Garcia has been involved with the engineering competition since she joined SourceAmerica in 2013, and her enthusiasm and passion for the program were infectious.

The winning high school team was the Brentwood Research Engineers from Brentwood High School in Brentwood, New York. Their project was titled Scoring a Victory for Increased Productivity and Wages with the Victory Sealer. Their invention, The Victory Sealer, is an assistive device for heat sealing packages to enable the one-handed operation of a typical heat seal press.

"It was so inspiring working with Victor and seeing our design's impact on him. It was amazing to see how one group of students could work together to create something new to help someone do their job better," said Nicole Olekanma, a member of the winning Brentwood High School team.

The college winner was team Cal Poly SLO from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in San Luis Obispo, California. Their project, titled Easing the Way to Increased Job Comfort and Efficiency with eZcart, created a new custodial cart that increases on-the-job comfort and efficiency.

"We started out trying to create a more efficient way for our [subject matter expert] to do his job, but in talking to him, we discovered that he was having a lot of physical discomfort, and we needed to find a solution for that first. Once we did that, his efficiency increased naturally," said Joey Johnson of Cal Poly SLO. "This experience made us realize how important it is to talk to the people who are doing the job and ask them how they feel and what they need."

Alex Zuniga, who served as the subject matter expert on the eZcart project, also appreciated the opportunity to participate in the competition.

"I really enjoy my cart – it helps me keep up with all of my coworkers. And I miss less [work] days," said Zuniga.

The attendees also got a chance to vote. After getting to meet the teams and watching the videos they made showcasing their designs, participants had the opportunity to vote for a People's Choice Award winner. The Wethersfield High School team and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University team were tied for the People's Choice Award.

Other highlights included a video about the nonprofit agencies that participated in the competition and whose support made it possible and a talk by Matthew Shifrin, co-founder of Lego for the Blind, who is an entrepreneur focused on building technologies to help people with disabilities engage with the world around them using Lego.

Garcia ended the inspirational event with an equally inspirational message for the students.

"For the high school and college students here today, I'd like to leave you with this thought," said Garcia. "You worked really hard over the last several months – you collaborated and connected with people in your community that you probably wouldn't have if it weren't for this competition.

And because you put in that effort – you made a real difference in the lives of people with disabilities. I would urge you to carry that forward and to keep thinking about how you can use your talents to create positive change. You made a huge impact in a matter of months. Imagine what you can do with the rest of your lives."

See below for the full list of finalists and links to the videos they created about their projects:

High School Finalists:

College Finalists: