June 20, 2019

National Engineering Competition Addresses Employment Issues Facing People with Disabilities

VIENNA, VA (June 20, 2019) – SourceAmerica® today announced the team finalists of its annual College Design Challenge. This national engineering competition showcases the students' abilities to use STEM skills and creativity to prototype assistive technology for employees with disabilities.

"This unique competition provides college students an opportunity to address employment issues of people with disabilities and create custom, innovative solutions using technology," said Vince Loose, President and CEO of SourceAmerica. "The members of the winning teams, and all of the SourceAmerica Design Challenge participants, have made extraordinary connections with individuals with disabilities and gained new perspectives that may well impact their professional careers and their contributions to society for years to come."

Students develop a piece of technology or a process designed to overcome a workplace obstacle for a person with a disability whom they have teamed with. The invention must be tested, implemented, and used in the workplace. Students then submit a video, technical paper with 3D models, and testing data to highlight the results of their invention.

Judges for the SourceAmerica Design Challenge are comprised of rehabilitation engineers, people with disabilities and others with relevant backgrounds. They evaluate the projects based on positive impact in the workplace -- job creation/retention, wage increases, production increases, contracts gained, waste reduction, stress/anxiety reduction and improved processes.

The three college team finalists for this year's national competition include:

Lawrence Technological University
Partner Organization: Services to Enhance Potential (S.T.E.P)
Project: Assembly Jig and Counting Pole
"Assembly Jig and Counting Pole" is a device that was designed to aid in assembling two rubber rings together and reduce pain from tedious hand motion. Employees at S.T.E.P. found the device interesting and helpful in their job and use it every day.

Ohio University
Partner Organization: SW Resources
Project: Bag Opener
The "Bag Opener" makes opening reclosable bags more accessible to individuals with disabilities. Based around opening the bag by sliding the zipper against itself, the operator pushes a lever rotating a wheel to press the bag against a plate and slide the bag open. With the new device, 160 of their 200 employees will be able to open the bags where previously only 10 of the employees could.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Project: Clicker Band
The "Clicker Band" is a wearable device that replaces a traditional mouse. It separates the clicking action from the navigation function allowing the user to use two hands. By isolating these two motions, the user showed an increase in accuracy and speed in navigating programs versus while using a traditional mouse.

The SourceAmerica College Design Challenge Finals Event will take place June 26, in Fairfax, VA just outside of Washington, D.C. At the finals the teams present their projects to the public and the judging panel to determine their placement and receive cash prizes. The finalists also participate in trainings and congressional visits on Capitol Hill during the two proceeding days.

For more information about SourceAmerica's Design Challenge, please visit: www.sourceamerica.org/design-challenge/home.

About SourceAmerica
Established in 1974, SourceAmerica creates employment opportunities for a skilled and dedicated workforce of people with 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 750 community-based nonprofits. Headquartered in Vienna, Virginia, 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. Visit SourceAmerica.org to learn more, or follow us on Facebook (@SourceAmerica), Twitter (@SourceAmericaUS) and LinkedIn (@SourceAmerica).