SourceAmerica Announces High School Level Finalists and Their Assistive Technologies Designed to Empower People with Disabilities in the Workplace

By SourceAmerica 02/18/2014

Vienna, VA – Feb. 18, 2014: The top five high school finalist teams for this year’s AbilityOne® Design Challenge presented by SourceAmericaTM have been selected and will showcase their inventions at a two-day competition event later this month. The annual nationwide contest encourages high school and college students to develop assistive technologies that empower people with disabilities to break through barriers in the workplace. The competition is sponsored by SourceAmerica, a national nonprofit that provides employment opportunities for nearly 125,000 people with significant disabilities. Established in 1974, SourceAmerica is one of two national, nonprofit agencies designated by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission to support nonprofit agencies participating in the AbilityOne Program.

The AbilityOne Design Challenge is an engineering competition that requires students to design and build a functioning prototype of a device that increases productivity for people with disabilities in the workplace or opens a job to an employee who could not previously perform the tasks associated with the job. The high school level of the competition concludes February 28 and the collegiate level culminates in June.

Starting in the fall, each high school team partners with a local nonprofit that trains, hires or provides opportunities for individuals with disabilities. As they research and develop their devices, the students observe and work with persons with disabilities in the workplace. The students also submit a discussion paper and produce a video presentation featuring their device, which must be a working prototype.

"The creative thinking and ingenuity of these young people is simply remarkable. The connections they make with people with disabilities are long-standing and could lead to meaningful contributions to the disability community. Armed with new knowledge, students leave the competition with the technical skills to seek out STEM education and future engineering careers," said Bob Chamberlin, President and CEO of SourceAmerica. "The students and their communities can be very proud of how their participation in this competition and their inventions are literally changing the lives and future prospects of people with disabilities across the country."

The high school finalists are the top five teams selected from hundreds of entries nationally. Team representatives will travel to the Washington, DC, area to present their devices before judges and compete for cash prizes. Prize categories are Best Overall Design, Best Engineering Design, and Best Use of Assistive Technology. The winners will be announced on Friday, February 28 during the two-day Design Challenge event in Arlington, VA.

The 2014 finalists are listed below along with a description of their assistive device and the name of the nonprofit agency they collaborated with.

Concord High School, Wilmington, DE
Magnet Assembly
Service Source, Wilmington, DE
Watch The Magnet Assembly Video
The Magnet Assembly was created to assist employees to successfully package magnets in plastic casings. The Magnet Assembly decreased the finger strength and dexterity required to perform the task, thereby increasing production rates and the accuracy of the magnet packaging process.

Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD
Die Cast Guide
BISM, Baltimore, MD
Watch The Die Cast Guide Video
The Die Cast Guide was created for employees with vision impairments to enable them to more independently and efficiently manufacture buffer pads used in floor cleaning and polishing machines. This device converted a job previously designated for sighted workers to a job all employees could perform and, at the same time, helped reduce the amount of material used.

Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD
Sealing Device
The Scott Key Center, Frederick, MD
Watch The Sealing Device Video
The Sealing Device was created to help employees seal small boxes with clear labels. By eliminating the need to peel and place labels by hand, The Sealing Device increased accuracy of employees already performing the job and opened the job to those not previously able to perform the necessary tasks.

Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD
The Nexus
The Scott Key Center, Frederick, MD
Watch The Nexus Video
The Nexus was created to give employees a more efficient way to produce O-rings used to waterproof electrical parts. The device not only enables employees to more independently, more efficiently and more accurately manufacture the O-rings, it also allows employees to work on six O-rings at once. Employees who previously weren’t able to perform this job at all can now assemble an O-ring quickly, independently and with great precision.

Wethersfield High School, Wethersfield, CT
The Path
CW Resources, New Britain, CT
Watch The Path Video

The Path was created to allow employees with limited dexterity or no use of their hands to package metal chains used for military ID tags in small envelopes. Through the use of a head piece and a foot pedal, the device decreased the amount of fine motor skill and isolated complex movements necessary for the work and transformed a job that was previously done only by employees with high dexterity at three separate stations to a job that can be done by many more employees at a single station.

Submissions for the Design Challenge must create greater access to employment for people with disabilities in one of the following areas: Computer Access, Environmental Accommodations, Functional Control and Access, Transportation/Mobility, Communication Assistance, Cognitive Accessories; or any device or system that gives access or improved earnings to people with disabilities. To ensure that these devices meet the workforce needs of people with disabilities they must be developed in collaboration with a person with a disability.

By applying their talents, knowledge, innovation and technology to workplace barriers, students demonstrate their dedication to increasing employment opportunities, productivity and earnings for people with disabilities. Previous award-winning devices reflect exemplary application of engineering and design to a workplace challenge, as well as consideration of additional factors encountered by people with disabilities in today’s society—economics, ease of use, safety, universality and availability of technology.

To learn more about the AbilityOne Design Challenge presented by SourceAmerica, please visit:

Julie Rosenthal, for SourceAmerica

Kimberly Bronow, for SourceAmerica

About SourceAmerica
Established in 1974, SourceAmerica 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 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.