Winter Quarter 2012

 Perspectives in Assistive Technology 

David L. Jaffe, MS and Professor Drew Nelson
Tuesdays & Thursdays   4:15pm - 5:30pm
Building 530 - Classroom 127

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Call for Candidate Team Project Ideas

Ideas are being sought for team projects for the assistive technology course at Stanford University this academic year.

The sixth season of Perspectives in Assistive Technology (ENGR110/210) will be offered in the Winter Quarter, starting in January. This class explores the engineering, medical, technical, and psychosocial challenges of implementing technology solutions for people with disabilities and seniors through lectures by experts in the fields of assistive technology and rehabilitation. In addition, teams of students work with project partners, coaches, and individuals with disability (or family members or health care professionals) to identify assistive technology needs, brainstorm ideas, formulate design solutions, fabricate devices, test them with users, and report their efforts.

In the past several years, many projects involving assistive technology have been undertaken. Previous years' projects were:

2011 No-Fall Cane Project
Exercise Machine
ROTA Hybrid Drive Project
RAFT Project

2010 Recharging Vest for Users of Implanted Deep Brain Stimulators
Standing and Walking Aid for Improved Balance and Stability

2009 iPhone Dialer for Individuals with Visual Impairments
Handi-Cart for Wheelchair Shoppers
Sonification of Movement for Individuals with Movement Restricting Disabilities
Opening Doors for Wheelchair Users

2008 Device to Press Elevator Buttons for Wheelchair Users
Liquid Metal Cane for Individuals who are Blind
Mobility Motivation Device for Children with Cerebral Palsy

2007 Accessible Fishing Pole
Aid for Donning an Artificial Leg
Device to Facilitate Moving Elderly People around Their Home
Rain Protector for Wheelchair Users

2006 Affordable Electric Page Turner for Individuals with ALS
Standing Aid for Children with Cerebral Palsy
Wheelchair Lift

The best projects typically win national design awards, even when competing against year-long design courses at other schools.

Project Ideas: Project ideas / suggestions are now being solicited. The broad requirements for projects are:

  • Deliverable: Projects must involve designing and fabricating a device (or developing software) to help individuals with disability or seniors.

  • Creativity: Student teams are required to fully understand the problem, identify the need, brainstorm concepts, choose a design, and fabricate, test, and report on their creative solution.

  • Originality: Student teams' designs should not be a copy of an existing commercial product or a physical representation of someone's design concept.

  • Feasibility: The project's aim and specifications should be realistic. Project solutions that can only be achieved by violating the laws of physics or that presume the existence of an anti-gravity machine are examples of infeasible project ideas.

  • Overlap: Projects should focus on actual needs or problems that are inadequately addressed by commercial products and could include diagnostic and rehab therapy equipment as well as personal devices. Projects that assist family members or health care professionals in caring for individuals with disabilities and seniors are also welcomed.

  • Scale: Projects must be of appropriate scale and complexity to be completed (design, fabrication, and testing of a prototype) in one quarter (8 weeks).

  • Expertise: Projects must be compatible with the skill level and expertise of students in the course. They typically have mechanical engineering backgrounds, although some may have electrical engineering, computer hardware, and software experience.

  • Cost: The estimated cost of any parts or fabrication must be modest, no more than a few hundred dollars.

  • Participation: A senior, a person with a disability, a family member of a person with a disability, or a health care professional should be available to work with the student project team to further identify the need, offer advice during the quarter, and test the prototypes.

  • Risk: The project must not pose a risk of harm to the user or student team. The device must be minimally invasive.

  • Support: Projects whose expenses are supported through monetary gifts to the course will be given preference. See Call for Project Support.

Please send any project ideas you have so they can be reviewed, compiled into a list, and offered to students in the first class session (Tuesday, January 10th). To best convey project ideas, they should be formulated into these short paragraphs:

  1. Name: - suggest a simple phase to refer to the project

  2. Background: - give an overview of your organization or general description of the population addressed by your project idea

  3. Problem: - briefly describe the problem or unmet need for the device you have in mind

  4. Aim: - describe what the proposed device should do

  5. Design Criteria: - list the desirable operational features and characteristics of the proposed device

  6. Other: - provide any additional information, including weblinks and design suggestions

There will be an opportunity for those who suggest project ideas to present them to students in the second class session (Thursday, January 12th). The students will then consider all the offerings and choose projects that most interest them.

This is an excellent opportunity to have bright students work on team projects that address long-standing problems experienced by people with disabilities and seniors.

Please contact me if you have any questions about the course and thank you for your project ideas.

David L. Jaffe, MS
dljaffe -at-

Updated 12/08/2011

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