2019 - 2020 SourceAmerica Design Challenge Winners

By Jason Golden 08/24/2020
2019 - 2020 SourceAmerica Design Challenge Winners

The SourceAmerica Design Challenge is a national engineering competition for high school and college students. The goal of this competition is to create assistive technologies that increases the independence and earning potential of people with disabilities through scalable and repeatable concepts that can be used in multiple settings and locations. 

A Design Challenge team is made up of students, a Subject Matter Expert (SME) and a coach. The students collaborate with their team SME, a person with a disability in their community, to create a process, device, system, or software for the competition. The invention is used by the SME to overcome a barrier they face in the workplace. Inventions are evaluated based on their impact to the SME -- not technical sophistication. The majority of teams connect with their SMEs through SourceAmerica's network of over 700 nonprofit agencies. 

The 2019-2020 SourceAmerica Design Challenge kicked off in August 2019 with excitement and expectations for another round of imaginative creativity that would make a difference in someone's life. High school and college students from across the nation formed their teams for the competition and worked diligently for several months, hitting milestones, and delivering on their own deadlines for their projects. As in most years, the teams submitted their projects to SourceAmerica and were waiting to see who would be selected to attend the in-person finals event in Washington, D.C. This event typically includes team presentations of each invention and an ultimate round of judging from a panel of experts to determine the winners. The celebration of innovation, in front of attendees, is the highlight of the Design Challenge cycle. When COVID-19 reared its head in March, those plans changed.

The SourceAmerica Design Challenge team quickly adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the safety of those involved, the finals competition and judging were conducted virtually for the first time in its nearly 20-year history. The judges reviewed videos and technical papers, and sent questions to the finalists electronically. After the final round of judging, the first-place winner in the High School Division was determined to be the DB Engineers from Diamond Bar High School (Calif.) partnered with California-based Ability Counts, Inc. The first-place winner in the College Division was The Slide Stool from Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology (Penn.), directly partnered with their SME working at Target.

The DB Engineers team consisted of student team members Akilan Arunachalam, Joshua Chung, Logan Tang, Jonathan Tan, and Nathan Jong; SME Grant Miller; and coach Darmo Tandjung. Together, they created The Fastener. This device streamlines the assembly process of specialty bolts at Ability Counts. The semi-automated device eliminates the manual assembly process, minimizing the need for fine motor control and dexterity. The Fastener increased Miller’s overall productivity by 75%, but even more importantly, increased his independence and comfort. When he was asked if the device helps, Miller replied, "Oh yeah it did, oh yeah it did!" This device can be scaled to accommodate several kinds of small part assembly jobs.

The Slide Stool team consisted of student team members Brandon Myers, Nichita Golovca, Nathaniel Argot, Baird Thompson; SME George Raber; and coach Don Dagen. The team worked together to improve Raber’s workspace at his register station at Target. Raber was using a traditional stool to help alleviate the pain associated with standing for long periods of time. However, it had many shortcomings, like limited reach to the register, and limited access to the bagging area and under the counter. The Slide Stool is a seat that Raber now uses at the register with great success. It slides back and forth from the register to the bagging area, allowing him to reach everything he needs and provides the flexibility to perform other aspects of the job, including reaching certain items that are stored under the counter. This stool can be used at any register and enables longer unmodified shifts. When asked about its impact, Raber said, "It'll definitely make it better because I will be able to work longer. Working longer means more money for me and a better quality of life."

The SourceAmerica Design Challenge program remains dedicated to creating technology to enable everyone the opportunity to work and will carry on with that mission with the 2020-2021 Design Challenge. The upcoming competition will also be held virtually to support the student team members who are distance learning and to prioritize the health and safety of all involved.

High School Division

  Project Video Link School Partnering Organization
First Place The Fastener Diamond Bar High School Ability Counts, Inc.
Second Place Bracket Tightening Assembly System Copley High School Weaver ProPak
Third Place The Shox Marquette Catholic High School Challenge Unlimited, Inc.
Fourth Place Trifling with Rifle Badges Diamond Bar High School FRW Industrial Support Systems
Fifth Place My Cleaning Buddy Marquette Catholic High School Challenge Unlimited, Inc.


College Division

  Project Video Link School Partnering Organization
First Place Slide Stool Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology Target
Second Place Sheet Metal Forming Fastener Processor Tarrant County College EXPANCO, Inc.
Third Place Light Up the World California State University, Los Angeles MVLE