SourceAmerica Announces High School and College Winners of National Design Challenge Competition Supporting People with Disabilities

By SourceAmerica 04/11/2018

SourceAmerica awarded Poolesville High School from Poolesville, Maryland, and Cube XL Assembly team from Lawrence Technological University from Southfield, Michigan as winners of the 2018 SourceAmerica Design Challenge competition April 11 for the outstanding workplace solutions they engineered to improve the jobs and lives of people with disabilities.

More than 120 teams of high school and college students in STEM programs across the country competed in the challenge. The three college and five high school finalists came together in Washington, D.C., this week to demonstrate how the devices they engineered benefited both employees with disabilities and their employers' bottom line.

Poolesville High created the Folder Filler, which enabled an employee with limited hand mobility to better manage paper work. Prior to the device, it took the employee 18 minutes to fill a folder with sheets of paper as part of his job as an account manager at NIH Project Search in Bethesda, Maryland.  With the Folder Filler, he could complete the task in under one minute.

Lawrence Technological University had two teams in the finals. The first-place winners crafted the Cube XL Assembly, which nearly doubled the strut assembly output of employees in addition to improving user focus and fun. Employees with the use of only one hand can now assemble struts on the job at Services to Enhance Potential in Dearborn, Michigan.

Throughout the competition, students worked closely with employees with disabilities at nonprofit agencies in their communities. Their goal was to understand the challenges employees face and to design innovative assistive technology to make jobs more accessible, more efficient and more fun..

SourceAmerica, a national nonprofit agency with a mission to create employment opportunities for people with disabilities, hosts the Design Challenge annually. The contest is designed to bring greater awareness of the need and the impact of assistive technology in the workplace and encourage upcoming generations to develop an inclusive mindset.

SourceAmerica Design Challenge Program Manager Charissa Garcia said the competition is unique because it pairs STEM education with service learning.

"This really ties in with our engineering focus and creates empathy throughout the design process," Garcia said. "By focusing on people with disabilities, we're really opening up the perspectives of our students, showcasing the capabilities of our network of nonprofit employers and what their employees can do via the appropriate technology."

This year's winners also included:

High School Division:

SECOND PLACE: Triad High School from Troy, Illinois

Partner Organization: Challenge Unlimited

Project: Preparing Patches:

Preparing Patches makes it easier to tear “Tear-Aid Patches” into groups of three. The patches then go into a repair kit for a wheelchair. The product reduces the time and increases efficiency for employees.

THIRD PLACE: The Catlin Gabel School from Portland, Oregon

Partner Organization: On The Move

Project: JonApp

The JonApp supports people with cognitive and developmental disabilities by providing a structure to organize and complete tasks in the workplace. The app includes images, dictation and a very user-friendly interface.

FOURTH PLACE: STEM4Girls from Portland, Oregon

Partner Organization: Edwards Enterprises:

Project: Packy -- The Affordable Stretch Wrapping Machine

The Packy is a cost-effective and easily adjustable stretch wrapping device that enables employees to bundle a variety of boxes without the assistance of another staff member.

FIFTH PLACE: Copley High School from Copley, Ohio

Partner Organization: Weaver Industries

Project: Paper Stack Cutter (PSC)

The Paper Stack Cutter (PSC) opens packages of pamphlets for shredding to ensure all employees at Weaver Industries SecurShred can prepare the materials for shredding.          

College Division:

SECOND PLACE: California State University, Los Angeles

Partner Organization: FVO Solutions, Inc.:

Project: Interactive Virtual Assembly:

The California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) team created an interactive, virtual reality job training program for employees with disabilities to support assembly processes.

Lawrence Technological University from Southfield, Michigan

Partner Organization: Services to Enhance Potential (STEP):

Project: Clip Assembly Device:

The Clip Assembly Device is a handheld device to help assemble a small metal pin into a plastic clip. It looks like a retractable ball point pen with a platform that contours the shape of the clip. A magnetic groove for the metal pin can be easily grasped to release the parts with the click of pen.

More information about the Design Challenge can be found here:


Finalist stories:

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