Bob Chamberlin, SourceAmerica CEO (left), Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH)and Ohio University team members Marissa Singley, Nick Reed and Scott Kostohyrz
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For the fourth time in six years, an Ohio University mechanical engineering senior design team has won first prize in the Ability One Design Challenge, a competition to design devices or systems to increase employment opportunities for workers with disabilities. The win brings total prize winnings by mechanical engineering design teams in recent years to more than $100,000.
As part of their year-long senior design course, Team Flower Power, comprising seniors Marissa Singley, Scott Kostohryz, Nick Reed, Cody Petitt and Eric Hamann, designed a machine to clean primary art materials for employees at ATCO, a local work training facility for workers with developmental disabilities. The invention, which ultimately supports the development of artwork for Passion Works Studio in Athens, removes ink from used lithographic printing plates using a cylindrical brush powered by an electric motor and liquid cleanser that is recycled through the system via a pump.
In addition to receiving the first place Best Overall Design trophy, the team and their home department were each awarded $10,000. The team’s coach, Department of Mechanical Engineering Chair and Robe Professor Greg Kremer, and the team’s nonprofit partner, Passion Works Studio/ATCO, were each awarded $5,000. Passion Works Studio/ATCO also received $1,000 in training vouchers from competition sponsor SourceAmerica, a national nonprofit network of agencies providing employment opportunities for nearly 125,000 people with disabilities.
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) presented Kostohryz, Reed and Singley with their trophy June 18 in Washington, D.C. at a Congressional reception. These team and Kremer spent several days in D.C. meeting with Senators and Congressmen, and participating in SourceAmerica’s Grassroots Advocacy Conference.
Kremer, architect of the “Designing to Make a Difference” capstone course, cited the project as a great example of the power of student design projects to make a difference in a community’s unique culture.
“Team Flower Power did a great job of working directly with Passion Works to understand what was preventing individuals with disabilities from participating in the plate-cleaning task, then they created a system that addressed those barriers,”,” Kremer said.. “And the team learned a lot about themselves and the design process along the way -- a real win-win,” Kremer said.
The new cleaning machine has created six part-time jobs for ATCO employees, who had been prohibited from performing the previous manual cleaning process due to safety regulations but now work in pairs to operate the cleaning machine. It also increases efficiency of production of the signature passion flower sculptures and related art work sold by Passion Works. Watch the employees work in the team’s project video.
“The commitment and ingenuity of these students shifted the workplace focus beyond accommodating disability to where it truly belongs – on advancing workers’ contributions,” said SourceAmerica President and CEO Bob Chamberlin. “Ohio University’s robust tradition of community collaboration exemplifies the substantive and long-term economic and individual impact that community partnerships create.”
Team member Kostohryz, an Athens native, said he was walking away with a brand new outlook on life. “It was such an honor to be recognized, but I don't think we were the only winners here. The winners were all of the non-profits and people with disabilities who were positively impacted by all of the teams who entered the competition,” he said.