April 13, 2005

Engineering students design for the disabled

By Robert Fleisig

    Pictured with Ron Baliko of the Tetra Society of North America, are engineering students, from left, Luke McIntyre, Kafayate Badmos, Neil Mohan, Jivtesh Bhaila, Calvin Muller, Derek Crawford. They are presenting a device used to help a client with spasm ride an exercise bicycle.
First-year engineering students are helping people with disabilities.

Students in the course, Engineering Design and Graphics, learned how to communicate their design ideas using technical sketching skills with a pencil and paper and three-dimensional modelling using the latest solid modelling computer-aided design software. As a capstone design project to the course, students were asked to propose a design for an assistive device to help people with disabilities and put their design communication skills to use.

The design project was done in collaboration with Ron Baliko of the Tetra Society of North America. Baliko, a volunteer and quadriplegic, introduced the students to designing for people with disabilities. He proposed a number of case scenarios from which student teams chose to work on. Projects in the most recent term included creating assistive devices for people with disabilities who have difficulty using digital cameras, activating controls for a windshield wiper in a vehicle, opening a mailbox in an apartment building and fishing, among other tasks.

"Students eagerly embraced these projects and developed a number of ideas and prototypes that clients of the Tetra Society of North America have put to use," says course lecturer Robert Fleisig. "After choosing case scenarios, they worked in small teams and communicated with clients through Ron via WebCT."

Students presented their work recently to their Baliko, Fleisig, and their classmates and teaching assistants.

The course is a requisite for all first-year engineering students.