California and Oregon engineering teams take first place in SourceAmerica Design Challenge

By Jason Golden 04/08/2021

Student engineering teams from Los Angeles, California and Portland, Oregon won the top prizes at the 2021 SourceAmerica® Design Challenge for their efforts to address workplace obstacles facing people with disabilities.

A team from California State University, Los Angeles, in partnership with the National Taipei University of Technology in Taipei, Taiwan, was honored with the first-place prize in the college division. Their project Zeno Effect, a web-based data tracking platform, uses facial and object recognition to assist in an assembly process and helps managers spot areas needing attention. This demonstrates how data analytics can be leveraged to better achieve production goals for all employees.

“This was a wonderful opportunity,” said California State University, Los Angeles team member Sandra Garcia. “We worked countless hours and it was worth it all!”

Catlin Gable School in Portland took first place in the high school division for their project ZipBag, which presents a safe and easy way for people with limb differences and lower dexterity to better handle the opening and closing of resealable bags.

“We decided to participate (in Design Challenge) because we wanted to use our engineering skills to help others,” said Catlin Gable team member Keola Edelen Hare. “The ZipBag is a step toward a more inclusive environment for those with disabilities.”

The SourceAmerica Design Challenge is a national engineering competition that showcases the STEM skills these students utilize to develop concepts and prototype assistive technologies to support people with disabilities in their workplaces. The two winning teams took top honors from a strong group of national finalists during a virtual showcase event held Wednesday.

"I would like to congratulate the winning teams from California State University, Los Angeles and Catlin Gable School,” said SourceAmerica Interim President and CEO Richard Belden. “The 2021 SourceAmerica Design Challenge presented an opportunity for these students to use their imagination and ingenuity and show the world how assistive technology can make a difference. I think they did an awesome job.”

The virtual finals event featured presentations from three college and five high school finalist teams. SourceAmerica subject matter experts in workforce development and productivity engineering judged the teams’ submissions based on their potential impact in the workplace.

In addition to the judge’s picks, the 300-plus attendees had the opportunity to vote live for their favorite project. Catlin Gable earned this year’s first-ever People’s Choice Award for their ZipBag.

The Design Challenge background

Student teams chose from a list of SourceAmerica’s pre-approved projects spanning several engineering disciplines such as mechanical engineering and software development. The teams then designed technology to address project requirements. For most of the year, the teams worked together virtually to fine-tune and document their progress until they submitted a final design.

Below are the finalists who also participated in the program:

College Team Finalists:

The second and third place college teams are:

  • Second Place - California State University, Los Angeles, and the National Taipei University of Technology
    Project: Midas Touch
  • Third Place - California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo – San Luis Obispo, California
    Project: Just Kitting Workstation

High School Team Finalists:

The second place and additional high school teams included:

For more information

For questions or additional details about the SourceAmerica Design Challenge, please visit

About SourceAmerica

SourceAmerica connects government and corporate customers to a national network of approximately 700 nonprofit agencies that hire a talented segment of the workforce – people with disabilities. Established in 1974, SourceAmerica is committed to increasing economic and social inclusion and advocating for a more accessible future of work for people with differing abilities. As a leading job creator within the disability community and distinguished as an AbilityOne authorized enterprise, SourceAmerica harnesses the momentum and boosts the capability of its network and customers. To learn more, visit and follow the organization on Facebook (@SourceAmerica), Twitter (@SourceAmerica), Instagram (@SourceAmerica), and LinkedIn (@SourceAmerica).