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Engineering and physical therapy students collaborate to make space studies program more accessible

Kaitor Kposowa and Colleen Carow | Nov 26, 2014
ADA study
Megan Graver, left, and Jaide Lydick demonstrate the measuring procedure used to check the width of doors around Ohio University's campus for ADA compliance ahead of the 2015 International Space University.Photos by Rob Hardin

Engineering and physical therapy students collaborate to make space studies program more accessible

Kaitor Kposowa and Colleen Carow | Nov 26, 2014
Megan Graver, left, and Jaide Lydick demonstrate the measuring procedure used to check the width of doors around Ohio University's campus for ADA compliance ahead of the 2015 International Space University.
Megan Graver, left, and Jaide Lydick demonstrate the measuring procedure used to check the width of doors around Ohio University's campus for ADA compliance ahead of the 2015 International Space University. Photos by Rob Hardin

Ohio University engineering and physical therapy students are assessing campus accessibility in preparation for International Space University’s (ISU) 2015 Space Studies Program (SSP15), to be hosted by Ohio University this summer.

ISU, which provides graduate-level training to future space leaders, will bring in about 250 participants, faculty and staff from around the world June 8-August 7 as part of its annual intense summer program that connects academic and commercial professionals including astronauts, engineers and scientists.

Russ College graduate students in “Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISE) 8900: Aging and Ergonomics” and College of Health Sciences and Professions (CHSP) students in “Physical Therapy 8500: Health Promotion and Wellness” surveyed spots on campus that ISU participants, faculty and staff will frequent, and developed a detailed report for OHIO Facilities and the Russ College.

“Improving lives is sometimes not immediately associated with the profession of engineering, but in the Russ College, we’re trying to bring that reality to the forefront,” said Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin. “Our students’ interdisciplinary collaboration and focus on the public is a perfect example of how we’re creating for good,” he said.

CHSP Dean Randy Leite also emphasized the power of the students’ connection.

“This project is just one more example of the power of interdisciplinary collaborations. We have two groups of students that brought very different perspectives to a challenge, and the resulting recommendations are that much stronger for it,” Leite said.

The team inspected 21 restrooms and 30 restroom doors throughout the Academic & Research Center, Baker University Center, Shively Dining Hall, Stocker Center and Walter Hall.

ISE graduate student Jaide Lydick, of Vincent, Ohio, said the project prepared her for the working world.

“As student engineers, a lot of the projects we do involve hypothetical data or hypothetical problems -- they’re not real world problems. This is actually going to have an impact on people and especially the university with this huge event that’s going to happen next summer,” she said.

Among the group’s recommendations were to upgrade various doorknobs, repair and add door actuators, and insulate under-sink piping. Other areas assessed were parking, sidewalks and ramps, signage and elevators, classroom and interior hallway spaces, and doorways.

Students from both courses felt that the strengths and perspectives of their unique academic background and training complemented each other.

“The engineering students had a detail-oriented, mathematical approach, while the physical therapy students added a functional and clinical-based mindset to the project,” said physical therapy graduate student Megan Graver, of Perrysburg, Ohio. 

Lydick also said the engineering students gained from the interdisciplinary nature of the work.

“The physical therapy students interact with people with disabilities, so they have a better understanding of problems. It was cool to put our design brains together with their personal experiences, to see how we approach things differently, and how we interpreted the results,” she said.

Associate Professor of ISE Diana Schwerha, an ergonomics expert and instructor for the ISE course, said that the collaborative experience was transformative for students.

“This is the way learning needs to be,” she explained. “It needs to be interdisciplinary. It needs to be applied. They need to know that it’s a project where what they do is going to change things.”

Ohio University officials have reviewed the report results in order to take appropriate actions.

“The results of this study helped shape our summer 2015 work plan, which will address some of the issues raised in the report,” said Senior Associate Vice President of IT and Administrative Services Joe Lalley.