Ohio University Tops AbilityOne Design Challenge For Second Year In A Row

By SourceAmerica 06/19/2014

Students' Inventions Open New Workplace Jobs to Individuals with Disabilities

Vienna, VA – June 18, 2014: For the second consecutive year, a team of mechanical engineering students from Ohio University placed first in the AbilityOne® Design Challenge presented by SourceAmerica® – an annual national competition that encourages students at both the college and high school levels to develop assistive devices or systems that make it possible for individuals with disabilities to perform workplace tasks and jobs they otherwise couldn't perform. The competition's sponsor, SourceAmerica, is a national nonprofit that provides employment opportunities for nearly 125,000 people with significant disabilities through its network of over 1,000 nonprofit agencies.

Working with the nonprofit Passion Works Studio, a division of ATCO, the Ohio University students created a metal sheet cleaning machine that removes ink from used lithographic printing plates that are recycled to make indoor/outdoor hand-painted metal decorative flowers. The machine opened new, year-round jobs for individuals with disabilities and increased the production capacity for "Passion Flowers" by automating a task that previously had to be done outdoors using a power washer by individuals with no disabilities. View the video to see the plate cleaning machine in action.

Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) presented Ohio University team members Scott Kostohyrz, Nick Reed and Marissa Singley with their trophy at a Congressional reception this evening (team members Cody Petitt and Eric Hamann were out of the country and unable to attend). The students developed the device as part of the year-long engineering capstone course "Designing to Make a Difference."

"The commitment and ingenuity of these students shifted the workplace focus beyond accommodating disability to where it truly belongs – on advancing workers' contributions," said SourceAmerica President and CEO Bob Chamberlin. "Ohio University's robust tradition of community collaboration exemplifies the substantive and long-term economic and individual impact that community partnerships create."

In addition receiving the first place Best Overall Design trophy, the team and Ohio University were each awarded $10,000. The team's coach, Ohio University Mechanical Engineering Department Chair Dr. Greg Kremer, and the team's nonprofit partner, Passion Works Studio/ATCO, were each awarded $5,000. Passion Works Studio/ATCO also received $1,000 in SourceAmerica training vouchers.

The second and third place winners of the collegiate division of this year's competition are:

Second Place Winner – Best Engineering Design

The Weber State University team in collaboration with PARC (Pioneer Adult Rehabilitation Center) created a custom Android-based tablet interface for employees of Runway Ruby's Restaurant who have autism and/or Asperger syndrome. The software system has increased sales and productivity by substantially increasing order accuracy and substantially reducing food waste and worker anxiety for employees taking orders, preparing the food, and delivering the completed orders.

Third Place Winner – Best Use of Assistive Technology

The Oregon State University team collaborated with Willamette Valley Rehabilitation Center to develop a machine that cuts wire mesh for use in roof construction. By automating the cutting process and increasing the consistency and accuracy of the cut pieces, the mesh cutter increased productivity by 300-400 percent. The device also reduced wasted material and made the process safer due to additional safety features.

The 2014 winners were announced at a Congressional reception on Wednesday, June 18 during the 2014 SourceAmerica Grassroots Advocacy Conference at the Washington Marriott at Metro Center in Washington, DC. The winners of the high school division of the competition were announced in February

Call for 2015 Entries

The AbilityOne Design Challenge 2015 is now inviting high school and college teams to apply their talents, knowledge, innovation and technology to overcoming workplace barriers by designing a prototype device or system that will create greater access to employment for people with significant disabilities. Entries must be developed in collaboration with a person with a disability or a SourceAmerica-affiliated nonprofit organization that is part of the AbilityOne Program.

To learn more about the AbilityOne Design Challenge presented by SourceAmerica, please visit: www.a1designchallenge.org.

About SourceAmerica
Established in 1974, SourceAmerica (www.sourceamerica.org) creates job opportunities for a skilled and dedicated workforce: people with significant disabilities. SourceAmerica is the vital link between the federal government and private sector organizations that procure the products and services provided by this exceptional workforce via a network of more than 1,000 community-based nonprofits. Headquartered in Vienna, VA, SourceAmerica provides its nonprofit agency network with business development, contract management, legislative and regulatory assistance, communications and public relations materials, information technology support, engineering and technical assistance, and extensive professional training needed for successful nonprofit management. SourceAmerica is an AbilityOne authorized enterprise.

About the AbilityOne Program
Providing employment opportunities to nearly 50,000 people, the AbilityOne Program (www.abilityone.org) 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® (www.abilityone.gov), an independent federal agency.