California Student Engineering Team Goes Extra Miles to Las Vegas to Create "Turn for a Change"
Design Challenge Team Leader Ryan Lou and his team—all high school engineering students from Diamond Bar, California—traveled nearly 250 miles to Las Vegas to visit Opportunity Village, a nonprofit organization in southern Nevada that serves adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The team met with Opportunity Village employees Rosie Scalf and Saday Beavers to learn about their jobs. They quickly became the team's subject matter experts and showed the students areas they thought productivity could be improved.
"When we met with Opportunity Village, we learned about the types of tasks their employees have to complete to refurbish television remote controls and cables," said Lou, Diamond Bar High School Team leader. "Our goal was to create devices that could be used by a person with limited motor skills, and with just one hand."
Lou and his teammates, Cathleen Chen, Jay Yu, Jonathan Tan and Nathan Jong, noticed that many employees' working methods were inefficient and difficult for people with limited dexterity. The team set the goal of increasing employee efficiency, productivity and comfort when engaging in the tasks of wrapping cables and cleaning remote controls.
The team attempted to create one device to combine cleaning remotes and wrapping cables. This prototype proved impractical, so they shifted their design and broke down the steps and created individual devices. The team’s next idea to clean remotes was to bind a brush to a table, so that the workers would be able to use one hand to operate the device. Different materials that could easily clean the remotes were taken into consideration. The team eventually settled on a brush with bristles that could reach inside the crevices on the side of the remotes and a second microfiber brush for dusting.
"Turn for a Change" is the final three part solution that includes separate devices that make it easier for people with different abilities to clean remotes and wrap cables. It features two remote control cleaners both with a fixed base that can be used with only one hand—the first is the rough bristle cleaning step, the second is the microfiber dusting finishing step. The third step is a motor-powered cable wrapper equipped with a foot pedal. Since using these devices, employees at Opportunity Village have shown a decrease in the time needed to complete each task and an increase in ease of use and comfort while doing so.
Chuck Neuwohner, director of workforce development at Opportunity Village, says the devices developed by the Diamond Bar team have helped to minimize the limited mobility of its employees and improve efficiency in production rates. "I think we're going to see improvements in the ergonomic comfort for both cleaning and refurbishing the remotes and also the wrapping and packout of the finished cables."
According to Scalf, without the cleaning device she wouldn't be able to clean the remotes. She uses a wheelchair and has limited strength in her right hand, so she completes this job solely with her left hand. "It's easier. With the device, all I have to do is take the remote and wipe it twice to make sure it's clean."
As a team, Lou believes they really pulled together to make improvements. Many team members stayed up all night to hand-finish the devices. "The experience was eye-opening for all of us, and we were excited to see how a jig can have a positive effect on people with disabilities," Lou said.