National Engineering Competition for Innovative Workplace Solutions Designed for People with Disabilities
VIENNA, VA (July 2, 2019) – An outstanding team of engineering students from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) took the grand prize in the SourceAmerica College Design Challenge. The national engineering competition showcases college students' abilities to use STEM skills and creativity to prototype assistive technology for employees with disabilities.
Students who participated in the event developed either new technology or a process designed to overcome a workplace obstacle for a person with a disability. Each team worked with a subject matter expert – a person with a disability who would be able to take advantage of the creation. The invention had to be tested, implemented, and used in the workplace. Students then submitted a video, technical paper with 3D models, and testing data that highlighted the results of their invention.
Three college teams were selected as finalists – Lawrence Technological University, Ohio University, and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). During the finals event, each team presented its project to a judging panel to determine first, second and third place. The finalists also participated in trainings and congressional visits on Capitol Hill.
"We got to encourage people to help," said Kailey Kinslow, member of the Virginia Tech team. "We took this from being an engineering project to something that could impact so many people, and policy, in the future."
Virginia Tech's Team JUVO was selected as the winning team for creating the Clicker Band. The team's subject matter expert, who has limited control of his hands, said that one of the difficulties he has is using his computer mouse. The team set out to help him more efficiently and accurately use his mouse by creating a wearable device with a button that enables him to click with his left wrist while navigating the mouse with his right hand. The effectiveness of the device was measured with an online testing software; the results showed it helped the user click and navigate more quickly and accurately than when he used a traditional computer mouse.
"Listening to each team's presentation on how they researched, created and tested their device was impressive," said Steve Krotonsky, chief operating officer for SourceAmerica. "It's clear that the participants took extra measures to really connect with the individuals with disabilities they worked with as subject matter experts and went through a careful process to reach a viable workplace solution. All of the competitors were bright, compassionate and talented individuals who show great potential as engineers creating assistive technology for employees with disabilities."
The SourceAmerica College Design Challenge judging panel included rehabilitation engineers, people with disabilities and others with relevant backgrounds. They evaluated 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.
For more information about SourceAmerica's Design Challenge, please visit: www.sourceamerica.org/design-challenge/home.
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).