Team Project Suggestions
Abstract: Project suggestions
are sought for the assistive technology course at Stanford University this
coming academic year. This is an excellent opportunity to have bright students
work on team projects that address long-standing problems experienced by people
with disabilities and older adults.
Deadline: Friday, December 1st
twelfth 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 older adults 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 older adults
(or family members or health care professionals) to fully understand the
problem, identify assistive technology needs, brainstorm ideas, formulate
design concepts, fabricate devices, test them with users, and report their
Some student projects have won national
design awards, even when competing against year-long design courses at other
Project Requirements: Project
ideas / suggestions are now being solicited. The broad requirements for these
suggestions must involve the design and fabrication of a device (or the
development of software) that addresses problems or challenges experienced by
older adults, individuals with a disability, or those who care for them,
including family members, therapists, and other health care professionals.
Non-engineering issues such as health care insurance, legislation, and policy
can not be pursued.
Creativity: In pursuit of
their projects, student teams are required to fully understand the problem,
search for existing products, identify the need, brainstorm concepts, choose a
design (or designs), and fabricate, test, analyze, and report on their
Originality: Student teams'
designs must not be a copy of an existing commercial product (perform an
internet search to confirm this) or a physical representation of another's
Feasibility: Projects' aims
and specifications should be realistic. Project solutions that can only be
achieved by employing magic, violating the laws of physics, defying gravity,
creating a perpetual motion machine, or disrupting the space-time continuum are
examples of infeasible projects.
project suggestions include those involving advertising, engaging in market or
data analysis or research, performing surveys, creating websites, compiling
databases, or pursuing long-term studies.
Overlap: Project suggestions
must focus on real problems that are inadequately addressed by commercial
products and could include diagnostic and rehabilitation therapy equipment as
well as personal devices. Projects that assist family members or health care
professionals in caring for individuals with disabilities and older adults are
Scale and Complexity:
Project suggestions must be of appropriate scale and complexity to be completed
(design, fabrication, and testing of a functional prototype) in one academic
quarter (about 8 weeks).
Availability: For project
suggestions that involve modifying an existing assistive technology device like
a wheelchair, a sample device must be made available to a student
Size: Project solutions must
be of an appropriate physical scale. The prototype should fit on a desktop as
there is insufficient space on campus to work on larger items such as
Work Location: A majority of
the project fabrication effort should occur on campus rather than in the
residence of the older adult or person with a disability.
suggestions must be compatible with the skill level and expertise of students
in the course who typically have mechanical engineering backgrounds, although
some may have product design, electrical engineering, computer hardware, and/or
Cost: Estimated parts and
fabrications costs must be modest - no more than a few hundred
Lower Cost: Fabricating a
ready-to-be-manufactured, lower cost version of an existing product is not a
suitable project goal as a student team's final prototype is a very long way
from a potential commercial product and parts typically represent less than 10%
of a product's retail price.
solutions must not require access to or modification of proprietary software,
such as adding functions to a cellphone.
Participation: An older
adult, a person with a disability, a family member of a person with a
disability, or a health care professional must be available locally (within 25
miles) to work with the student project team to further illustrate the problem,
offer advice during the quarter, and test the students'
Risk: Project prototypes
must not pose any risk of harm to the user or student team. The device must
also be minimally invasive and must not provide physical therapy or cause
changes in physical anatomy (without the consent of the instructor and presence
of a therapist or physician).
Damage or Modification:
Project work must not damage or alter any Stanford or private property.
Examples of prohibited activities include drilling into walls, rewiring the
installed infrastructure, home improvements, and vehicle
suggestions should not be a duplication of a candidate project already
described in the current candidate project
Support: Project suggestions
supported by a monetary gift to the course will be given preference. See
Call for Project Support.
Don't be disappointed if your
candidate project is not chosen by a student team as there are many more
projects than teams. There will be other opportunities for students to work on
the project: in other courses, as independent study, or over the
Don't expect the students'
prototype will be a totally workable solution. It may not be "ready for prime
time", be unsafe to use, or remain otherwise unfinished.
A team's prototype may not have the
refined look comparable to existing commercial products.
It is very unlikely that a student
project design will become commercialized, without spending several additional
years of effort and lots of $ on doing so.
Project Suggestion: Compose
(text format is ok) and email your project suggestion for review. Note that
both the problem and features of a solution should be highlighted, but not how
a device should appear, be built, or solve the problem - those are tasks for
the student team to address. To best convey a project suggestion, use the
current team candidate project list as a guide
and format the problem description into these short, concise paragraphs:
Name: - suggest a simple,
short, descriptive phase to refer to the project
Background: - give an
overview of the organization and / or provide a general description of the
population addressed by your project suggestion
Problem: - briefly and
concisely describe the problem, including the people who experience
Everyday Usefulness of the Problem Statement by Alan Nicol is a
well-written reference article.)
Aim: - describe what
the proposed solution should do, but not how it should do
Design Criteria: - list the
desirable operational features and characteristics of the proposed
Other: - include additional
information that will illuminate the problem and facilitate a solution, such as
photographs, short videos, a list available resources, weblinks, and general
Contact Information: -
provide suggestor's name, company (if applicable), email address, and phone
Project Approval: Once the
emailed project suggestion is received, it will be read, reviewed, and
considered. Approved project suggestions become candidate student projects that
are posted on the course website and disseminated to students as a handout on
the first day of class.
Project Presentation: Project
suggestors will have the opportunity to "pitch" their candidate projects on the
second day of class. (Here is
information on the "pitch" process.) If a student
team chooses to work on the candidate project, its suggestor must be able to
assist them with advice, direction, and expertise in person, or by phone,
and/or email during the quarter and will be invited to the
Student Team Project Final Presentations and
Past Projects: Here are photos
of prior years' students' assistive technology projects -
Please feel free to contact me early in
the project suggestion process so I can review your ideas. Thank you for your
- David L. Jaffe, MS
- dljaffe -at-