February 15, 2013

Team Wins Best Overall Design with the Earplug Chain Fixture

Vienna, Va., February 15, 2013 — Wethersfield High School of Wethersfield, CT, placed first in the national AbilityOne® Design Challenge, winning Best Overall Design for their device called the Earplug Chain Fixture. This assistive technology can be utilized by people with different types of physical and dexterity-related problems to increase their productivity. The Wethersfield High School team worked directly with individuals who have developmental disabilities and who are employed at CW Resources, a nonprofit organization in New Britain, CT, which employs and provides services to people with disabilities.

"It's my fourth year competing, but my first time being on the team that wins first place," said team captain Benjamin T. Grant. "It feels good to win. It opened up my eyes to a different world I would have never seen."

The AbilityOne Design Challenge is an annual competition encouraging students to develop assistive technologies that empower people with disabilities to break through barriers to employment. NISH, a national nonprofit agency whose mission is to create employment opportunities for people with significant disabilities, sponsors the event. Established in 1974, NISH is one of two national, nonprofit agencies designated by the U.S. AbilityOne Commission™ to support nonprofit agencies participating in the AbilityOne Program. The devices by these finalists are already -- or will be -- used on a daily basis by employees at the various nonprofits; and in some cases, additional devices are produced for other employees.

"Judges selected this year's five finalists from among hundreds of entries which demonstrated how their assistive technology would increase employment opportunities, productivity and earnings for people with disabilities. By applying their talents, knowledge, and ideas, these students were able to develop innovative, new technologies to help those with significant disabilities break through workplace barriers," said NISH President and CEO Bob Chamberlin. "We are overjoyed with this year's results and very proud of all of our finalists." The five finalist teams were presented trophies and scholarship awards.

This year's other high school finalists include:

Second Place Winners

  • Gardner Edgerton High School, Gardner, KS – LABB (Lever Action Box Builder), This link will open in a new window Outstanding Engineering Designforthe LABB, an adaptive device to help assemble pre-fabricated cardboard boxes at Cottonwood industries, Lawrence, KS.
  • Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD – The Tea-Packaging Device. Outstanding Assistive Technology for the Tea-Packaging Device, which improves productivity in packaging of tea packets by employees with multiple disabilities who have difficulties counting objects, at the Scott Key Center, Frederick, MD.

Third Place Winners

  • Poolesville High School, Poolesville, MD – Rain Barrel Cradle, The Rain Barrel Cradle is a device that holds and stabilizes a rain barrel while an employee cleans or attaches parts during the assembly process. It was developed for use of employees at the Scott Key Center.
  • Minnetonka High School, Minnetonka, MN – The Buckle Box, The Buckle Box is a wooden hinged shelf-like rectangle that allows employees to assemble Blow-Darts for Wal-Mart, at Opportunity Partners, Minnetonka, MN.

The AbilityOne Design Challenge is a competitive process which requires students to build a functioning prototype of their assistive technology device in order to be considered for contention. High school teams must complete an online training module and work through the fall to research, design and submit a discussion paper and video presentation featuring their device. The device must be in use or intended to be in use by the end of the school year in order to be considered.

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.

To learn more on the AbilityOne Design Challenge, visit: www.a1designchallenge.org.

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.