By Melissa Gerber
The potential that engineers have to improve the world was abundantly clear Saturday in front of Ohio University's Stocker Center.
Six teams of students in the Department of Mechanical Engineering gathered to demonstrate their senior design projects. Sponsored by the National Institute for the Severely Handicapped, the teams were asked to use technology to help enhance employment opportunities for people with disabilities.
Each team partnered up with someone from the community with special needs, designing and developing an assistive technology product to help them advance in the workplace.
The Stocker Center Street Gang designed a self-contained geared wheel that attaches to a standard wheelchair, making it easier for the user to ascend an obstacle such as a steep ramp. The wheel was specially designed for Carolyn Bailey Lewis, director of Ohio University's Telecommunications Center.
"This new geared wheel will really help relieve the pressure of getting up a steep place," Lewis said. She noted that while campus ramps meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, they still pose challenges.
Team MeToo created a lifting vest that helps a person who has lost an arm lift large, heavy objects with ease. Their customer, Dan Bohner of Wadsworth, Ohio, found the lifting vest helpful.
"Before, I was not able to lift these bigger boxes at all," Bohner said. "Now they are no problem."
Halliday's Heroes created a mechanical advantage system that decreases the force required to operate a body-powered prosthesis for use in an agricultural environment. Specially designed for Tim Lang, a dairy farmer in Marietta, the system fits into a standard forearm prosthesis, providing Lang with more strength and reducing back pain.
Four of the six teams submitted their projects to the National Institute for the Severely Handicapped nationwide competition. Results will be known at the end of May.
"While we hope that at least one team is selected at the national level, today they are demonstrating what is important -- that they helped someone in the community," said Gregory Kremer, chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
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