Winter Quarter 2017

Perspectives in Assistive Technology


David L. Jaffe, MS
Tuesdays & Thursdays from 4:30pm to 5:50pm
Thornton Center Classroom 110

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Students' Comments - Winter 2016

Online Teaching Evaluation Summary
[Instructor's responses]

In response to these questions:


What would you like to say about this course to a student who is considering taking it in the future?

If you're expectations are to learn about software engineering, don't take it. The class is made for mechanical engineers. [The course is open to students from all majors, but it is not a programming or software engineering course. No technical background is required.]

Pick a great group and a great project.

The effort is totally worth it.

Absolutely take this course! It is a great chance to practice the design process, and also to build empathy for your users. It is also a great chance to learn about the emerging and growing field of assistive technology. Great speakers from a variety of backgrounds.

Choose a good team.

You learn the most outside of the classroom. [Not sure if this refers to the field trips, assistive technology faire, movie screening, or working on the team project.]

What you get out of the class seems to exponentially increase when you take it for a letter grade [while doing a project].

Pick a good project.

Field trips [are] extremely interesting.

It is a course that gives technology that we learn about much needed context. I was very excited to hear from guest speakers and innovators in the class.

Don't have huge expectations for the project. [I don't know if this comment was meant to refer to the commercialization prospects for the project.]

Take it! Amazing class, and Dave is unbelievable!

Ton of fun. David really cares about his students (he even brings us cookies each lecture!), and wants you be excited to learn more.

It's a great class and definitely take it. Also start the project early and stay on top of it.

Take it! The lectures are fascinating and it's fun meeting the speakers afterward.

This is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling courses I've ever taken. It's literally a class where the more you put in, the more you get out of it. I was able to confirm my passion for designing and building while hopefully developing something that can help people in need. This class is what Stanford means to me.


Would you like to provide any other comments about this course?

Not sure the best way to do this, but class size was very big. Possible way to restructure for bigger class sizes? [I agree that at a record enrollment of 50 and 12 projects, the class size was large, so I will be considering capping it at 10 teams of 3 next year.]

Cool class. The comment on instruction isn't regarding Dave himself, but the structure of teaching / grading. Either peer grading shouldn't be a thing because not everyone fully understands everyone else's project, or it should be revamped. [There is no peer grading in the course - the students do provide peer evaluations of each other's projects as is done is several other courses. I believe that the teams' presentations should communicate an understanding of their projects for other students, community members, and the course instructor.]

Great course -- I loved the guest speakers and would often leave feeling really inspired to work in the assistive tech field. Best seminar-type class I've taken at Stanford!

I think it's great.

I really appreciate how much Dave wants everyone to be able to take the class and do well. Most professors do, but Dave acts on it.

I cannot speak highly enough of the course. Having the class filmed is very useful, and the ability to present in front of community leaders allowed me to practice with a wider audience. Hopefully, presentations can be split into two days next quarter, to allow for a Q/A session for each presentation. [Certainly the 5 minute limit on presentations is challenging, but in professional life one rarely gets enough time to present their efforts. And I am very reluctant to eliminate the demonstration day when teams show off their project efforts to other teams, community members, and the course instructor. An option is to the presentations and demonstration for the Final Exam time in Week 11.] But other than that, thank you for the course!


What skills or knowledge did you learn or improve?

I learned a lot about what assistive technologies are.

Inventing! Real world problem solving, empathy

Fabrication and User Testing

I think my knowledge of the types of devices out in industry to help with disabilities expanded greatly. This exposure is something I wish I had been able to experience earlier on in my college career (now being almost a graduated senior) as it was really transformative being able to see the impact of these devices. I used to think I only wanted to design internal medical devices, but this class has helped me find that there is a large range of types of devices that can ameliorate problems many humans face.

I improved my personal philosophy on assistive technology design. I improved my written and oral communication skills, and well as my ability to form good team dynamics. I also gained a broader knowledge in the field of assistive technology and rehabilitation.

Rapid prototyping & iteration

I learned about the engineering process and how designs are progressed into the market.

Explorative tools for analyzing needs for disabled individuals.

I learned about broader definitions of assistive technology and how to work with a team on an issue not usually in my comfort zone.

Communication skills, writing, rapid prototyping, design process

Definitely gained more a sensitivity to challenges faced by people with disabilities and gained my first insights into the design space surrounding these challenges.

I learned about the different types of assistive technology, important factors to consider when designing, building, and trying to manufacture assistive technology, as well as hear from users their experiences using assistive technology.

My understanding and perspective on Assistive Technology and what I can do to help.

Learned a lot about how to make better design decisions, particularly in assistive technology.

I learned about important considerations to be made when designing a product for people with disabilities.

Teamwork skills were a big part of my development this quarter thanks to this class. In addition, learning how to properly evaluate and implement the needs of a user versus what I have pre-conceived to be the best approach.


For students who worked on a team project - Please provide an example of an assistive technology or design / development concept presented in class that you encountered in pursuit of your team project. Did working with the user with a disability or older adult or project suggestor help you better understand it? If so, how?

Exoskeletons because the importance of feeling like you could walk or move again helped my understanding of what technology could do.

Great time talking with Barbara. [Barbara is an older adult who self-identifies as a conceptual designer, consults at IDEO, was a guest lecturer in the course, and has provided several project suggestions this year.]

Stance control orthotics

I think it was Gary Berke, who talked about the 5 c's of design, specifically I can remember cost, function, comfort... I think we found these to be true as we were designing a low-technology, low-cost device. If it wasn't comfortable our user wouldn't buy it, if it didn't meet our minimum viable product criteria it wouldn't meet her need.

Interview techniques

We encountered the difficulty in truly understanding the need of our user because we had a plan and then realized we forgot a large subset of our audience and had to rethink our design after talking with people with disabilities who the product was aimed at.

The concept that many assistive technology devices are ultimately not used due to causing fatigue, pain, or being detrimental to the lifestyle of the user. It helped me to reinforce the idea that no matter how much I may love my design, in the end it is important that the user is comfortable with it and proud of it, so that they can use it daily and have a tangible effect on their lives. Working with our suggester helped us to see this, and the external speakers really helped to bring this home. Ease of use trumps coolness, but if you can do both, then the user will love the device.


For students who worked on a team project - What did you find most valuable about your team project experience?

Interacting with a population that is not served typically by technology.

Working with users of the product. Developing relationship with them.

Working with the community!

Working with other team members and bouncing off ideas.

Working with others on a real problem.

I think the most valuable part of our experience was being able to work with and design for a community member, even if her need was applicable for a much larger subset of people.

Building the project

Great group members

Learning that every person brings a different yet equally valuable perspective to the group.

Going to the site and testing our product and seeing what was needed were most valuable.

Personally, being reaffirmed that I was choosing the right major, as both of my teammates were ME, and I had just decided to switch into ME from EE. In addition, the necessity of flexibility in learning to properly utilize each member's particular skills.


For students who worked on a team project - How could your team project experience have been improved?

N/A. I really liked my team and project

It would have helped to have been connected with our project suggestors instead of having to do it ourselves. We weren't sure what protocol was. [The "protocol" was mentioned in class and contact information for all the project suggestors was listed in the handout.]

More support for the fabrication. [There are 18 Teaching Assistants available in the Product Realization Lab.]

I'm not sure it could have! Regular meetings with my team made the quarter feel very smooth and organized.

By being able to choose teammates better. [Perhaps I will ask students to raise their hand if they don't think they would be a good teammate.]

Starting sooner to have more time for project.

I think we struggled with timing and would have improved if given more time or we balanced our time better.

Incorporate five minutes per class for group discussion (this can easily be done, as the class usually begins 5 minutes past the start time to allow community members to arrive). This would encourage more updates between students. Also, a list of contacts in regards to specific technologies would be useful (e.g., person A is a specialist in electronics, person B is a specialist in mold making, etc.). [This is a good idea; however students are still streaming in 10 minutes after the start of class. The TAs in Room 36 have a variety of expertise in electronics, microcontrollers, mechatronics, and fabrication. Also a list of Resource People and their expertise are mentioned in class and posted on the course Resource People webpage.]

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Updated 11/11/2016

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