Winter Quarter 2013

 Perspectives in Assistive Technology 

David L. Jaffe, MS and Professor Drew Nelson
Tuesdays & Thursdays   4:15pm - 5:30pm
Thornton Center - Classroom 110

home icon

2013 Candidate Team Projects

Projects suggested this year

Projects suggested last year

Projects suggested in past years

Other projects

Back to top

Guide Robot for the Blind

Background: Intellisight is developing a system for guiding people who are blind and visually impaired along a clear path. The design uses Lidar-type radar to sense the presence of obstacles or other terrain features and warns the user.

Problem: Current orientation and mobility solutions for individuals with visual impairments or blindness include the Long Cane, guide dogs, Mowat Sensor, Trekker, and Mini Guide. While they provide basic information suitable for getting around, they do not provide much detail about the nearby environment.

A guide robot is under construction that will provide a blind traveler with information beyond what is available with current solutions. Intellisight is tackling the following portions of the project: wheels, motors, motor controllers, power system, sensor array, and computer hardware and software systems.

Aim: Build a user-interface that facilitates communication between the robot and the user as well as the platform that supports the motorized computerized robot device.

User-Interface Design Criteria:
  • Employ a telescoping handle that is able to support the entire weight of the robot
  • Provide a tactile interface to the user
  • Include a power switch
Platform Design Criteria:
  • Accommodate the selected motors, motor controllers, and computer system
  • Consist of lightweight material
  • Have an adjustable height
Other: The completed prototype will be able to detect a clear path and provide object avoidance information as well as detailed information about the local environment. It will be able to scan the interior of a building to determine its room layout and employ GPS information.
Project Contact:
Brian Higgins
seeneye -at-
Intellisight - Autonomous Travel for the Blind
Long Cane
Mowat Sensor - photo
Mini Guide
Orientation and Mobility Training: The Way to Go
Blind Aid Project Mid-Presentation

Back to top

Projects suggested by Aman Kumar

1. Retinal Detachment

Design a prototype device or app for communicating and visualizing symptoms of retinal detachment

2. Stutterers

Address one of these problems experienced by stutterers:

Design a prototype device or app that would assist health care professionals to assess the effects of therapy

Design a prototype device or app that would provide audio feedback of stutterers speech and video feedback of muscle disruptions that accompany stuttering

Design a prototype device or app that would connect health care professionals with stutterers living in rural areas to provide care and therapy

Project Contact:
Aman Kumar
aman -at-

Back to top

Walker for Stroke Survivors

Background: Individuals who have experienced a stroke frequently have a weakness on one side of their body that affects their walking and balance. Canes and walkers are often used to improve their walking confidence and prevent falls.

Problem: Having a weakness on one side of the body makes moving and steering a standard walker or a wheelchair used as a walker difficult. It will often veer off course and may be hard to push and maneuver, especially through doorways, up and down ramps, and in confined spaces such as bathrooms, office cubicles, and narrow areas in parking lots. The stability of these devices is lacking when going down a ramp or over uneven terrain.

Aim: Explore designs to make it easier for these individuals to use a walker or a wheelchair used as a walker.

Design Criteria: Consider a design that would be an add-on device to a standard walker or a wheelchair used as a walker.

Project Contact:
Pat McCarty
pat_mccarty -at-
Sidewalker by Alimed

Back to top

Inhaler Projects

1. Inhaler Use Monitor

Background: Asthma affects 30 million people in the US alone with $50 billion in associated health care costs. Many people's asthma is poorly controlled, requiring regular use of rescue inhalers. Poorly controlled asthma, in turn, increases the number of outpatient visits, hospital admissions, and death.

Problem: Currently there is no easy way for those with asthma and their clinicians to monitor inhaler use. Previous solutions that have tried and failed depend on auxiliary attached devices onto the inhaler. Their lack of penetration into the market is driven by slow adoption as a prescription and reimbursable product that requires extra effort the part of the patient to get the device. In addition, patients may have multiple inhalers and they can’t easily obtain multiple devices.

Aim: Explore designs to monitor inhaler use.

Design Criteria: A solution to this problem must be rapidly scalable and detect the use of an inhaler so that the patient’s condition could be monitored both by the patient and their health care network. Ideally this would be without the addition of another device.

Other: Any modifications to existing inhalers - even changing the color - will require an FDA review.

AT&T Demonstrates Wireless Asthma Sensor
App for iPhone, iPad, Android Tracks Asthma Symptoms, Medications
Project Contacts:
Rush Lloyd Bartlett II
rush256 -at- or rushb -at-

Ryan JF Van Wert
rvanwert -at-

2. Inhaler Reminder

Aim: Explore designs for inhalers that would reduce the chance that they are forgotten by asthmatic users (including children)

Project Contact:
Jules Sherman
jules -at-

3. Inhaler Appearance

This project is suitable as an individual rather than a team project.

Aim: Explore designs for inhalers that would improve their appearance, including making them more discreet.

Inhaler for children with asthma
Inhaler covers - this is a ficticious product
Project Contact:
Jules Sherman
jules -at-

Back to top

Synchronizing with the Conductor's Beat

Problem: Professional and student musicians must be able to synchronize with the conductor's beat as expressed by the baton, wrists, and hands when performing. This is a challenge for those who are unable to see the conductor. When they listen to the other musicians, there is a delay in perception which creates a tendency to be behind the beat.

Aim: Explore designs to make it possible for a visually impaired performer to synchronize with the conductor's beat.

Design Criteria: The motion would need to be communicated without distracting from the performance and should not be obvious to the audience. In addition, the solution should not interfere with the conductor's movement or the microphones if used during the performance. Because an orchestra is spread out over a wide area, musicians will not be in sync with each other without watching the conductor. There can be a time delay due to processing information as well as a delay due to the speed of sound and the distance from the conductor. The beat needs to be obvious so that it can easily be found if the performer focuses on something else.

Design Suggestions: An auditory, vibratory, or other tactile signal could relay motion and position information to the blind performer. Consider clicks presented in a wireless earphone to accommodate a visually impaired performer who is moving on stage.

Project Contact:
Jan McKinley
Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired
jmckinley -at-
Synchronized Beat - YouTube video

Back to top

Touch Screen Technology

Background: Elo Touch Solutions produces touch screens and would like to address the needs of people with disabilities.

Problem: Touch screens present challenges for those who are blind or visually impaired as they are unable to determine where on the screen they need to touch. Other disability populations may also have challenges using touch screen technology.

Aim: Explore designs that would enable people with disabilities to benefit from touch screen technology.

Design Criteria: The design must provide benefits to the user, be easy to use, intuitive to operate, technologically feasible, and cost effective.

Design Suggestions:
Touch screen-based maps
Applications for individuals with hearing or mobility impairments
Applications for older adults or children
Project Contact:
Susan Swei, PhD
Elo Touch Solutions
susan.swei -at-

Back to top

Apps for Android Users

Background: While these apps would be useful to everyone, they would be especially beneficial to Android users who have low vision or who are blind.

  1. Campus Information - Develop an accessible eyes-free campus app that would provide quick and easy access to useful information such as: cafeteria menus, library hours, and Marguerite Shuttle schedules.

  2. Real-time OCR - Develop an enhancement to existing OCR software that would provide real-time spoken output.
    Project Eyes-Free - speech enabled eyes-free Android applications
    Tesseract OCR - OCR engine originally developed at HP
    ScanThing - intelligent optical character recognition

  3. Campus Wayfinding - Develop an outdoor wayfinding app that helps individuals new to Stanford find their way around campus.
    WalkyTalky - accessible navigation aid
    Intersection Explorer layer in Google Maps - helps blind travelers explore their neighborbood

Project Contacts:
TV Raman
raman -at-

Alan Viverette
alanv -at-
YouTube video

Back to top

Projects suggested by Ability Production

Background: Ability Production is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing information, education, and resources for able-bodied and differently-abled alike. They provide services, resources, mentorship, and community and support individuals and groups interested in improving their health, well-being, and rehabilitation from physical disability, illness, and the effects of aging, including making the home more visitable, accessible, and easy to live in.

  1. Transfer Assistance

    Problem: Some users of powered wheelchairs may be able to accomplish standing transfers independently. However existing wheelchairs do not provide a mechanical configuration that would assist them in accomplishing this task.

    Aim: Explore mechanical designs that would provide safe, independent standing transfers including to a toilet.

    Design Criteria: The design should be easy and safe to use, be able to bear the user's weight during transfers, and be adapted to existing wheelchairs.

  2. Wheel Washer

    Problem: During normal outdoor use, wheelchairs and walkers get dirty. This dirt could be tracked into the user's residence.

    Aim: Explore designs to remove dirt from the wheels of a powered or manual wheelchair or walker.

    Design Criteria: The design should remove dirt from the inside, outside, and perimeter of all wheels on manual and powered wheelchairs and walkers so that the grime doesn’t get tracked indoors. The design should be self-contained and easy to use and clean.

Project Contacts:
Molly Hale
molly -at-

Jeramy Hale
jeramy -at-
Ability Production

Back to top

Social Development Program for Students with Autism

Background: Autism is a lifelong neurodevelopmental disability that affects a person's ability to communicate, understand language, play and socially interact with others. Autism usually manifests itself between the ages 15 -20 months when typical developmental patterns first show signs of delay or unusual brain development. One dominate challenge of Autism is found in the area of social-emotional processing. Neurological differences impact an individual's ability to predict the intentions of others. This inability to generate a measured response from observed interactions makes social communication extremely challenging. In short, an individual affected by Autism is likely to process social interactions in the same fashion as one would relate to a literal object like a table. Expressions of emotions like facial gestures must be learned through repetitive behavioral training rather than through typical knowledge inference.

Problem: Individuals with Autism have social emotional and social relational challenges which limit their capability of engaging in meaningful communication. While these social emotional traits develop naturally for typical students, individuals with Autism are forced to learn these features through repetitive behavioral modeling because of their lack of ability to innately build on prior social references.

Aim: Explore the development of educational gaming applications that will help to create an engaging method for students to build appropriate social emotional recognition through repetitive behavioral modeling.

Design Criteria: Pacific Autism Center for Education (PACE) is looking to leverage the prior proof of concept work into a more robust platform which integrates an element of authoring capability to make the application more scalable and individualized for specific groups of students at different levels of need.

Project Contact:
Kurt Ohlfs - Executive Director
kurtohlfs -at-

Back to top

Integration of the Bookshare Go Read Android Reader with Switch Interfaces

Background: Benetech is a technology nonprofit organization, which serves humanity by developing software solutions for unmet needs in the areas of Human Rights, the Environment, and Access to Literacy. This project is in the Access to Literacy area and involves software development and testing an integration of the Bookshare Go Read eBook reading tool with the Tecla Shield switch interface used by people with motor control disabilities.

Problem: Many members of the Bookshare community have disabilities, such as Cerebral Palsy, that require access to switches. The current Bookshare for Android app, Go Read, is not optimized for use with switches.

Aim: Explore designs to integrate and test Bookshare’s open source Go Read app with Komodo OpenLabs’ Tecla Shield.

Design Criteria: The use of, or creation of, open source software is a core tenet for Benetech’s development ideology. Though the software for the Bookshare web site is not open source, we have an open web services API and various related applications are open source, such as our Go Read app.

Other: This project will involve Java programming on an Android platform, Tecla’s open source libraries, and the open source Go Read app. Benetech will supply loaner hardware from the Tecla team as well as a user to work with the student team.

Project Contact:
Gerardo Capiel
480 S. California Ave., Suite 201
Palo Alto, CA  94306-1609
gerardoc -at-
Go Read
Komodo OpenLabs’ Tecla Shield
Benetech's Open Web Services API
FBReaderJ app for Android (Go Read)

Back to top

Projects suggested by Parents Helping Parents

1. Babble Helper

Problem: Babbling is an important stage in child development during which an infant is experimenting with uttering the sounds of language before producing any recognizable words. Children born with profound speech impairments do not have a chance to experiment with the sounds of language through babbling. A chance to babble through non-speech means may help young non-speaking children develop better language, literacy, and social interaction skills.

Aim: Create a babbling device that can be controlled by young children with profound speech disorders.

Design Criteria:
  • The project must take into account that children with profound speech disorders also frequently have other significant motor impairments, so the design must be accessible to users with very limited fine motor control.
  • The design must be portable and reasonably durable to withstand messy hands and occasional falls.
  • The design must allow the child to spontaneously create a variety of non-speech syllable strings.
Baby Babble Blanket

2. Word Imitator

Problem: In the process of language acquisition, children enjoy imitating and playing with words that they hear in their environment, even when they do not know what these words mean. Children born with profound speech impairments do not have a chance to experiment with the sounds of language through non-meaningful imitation. A chance to immediately imitate and play with any language they hear (e.g. by saying it in a different voice, or very slowly, or by moving the syllables around) may help young non-speaking children develop better language, literacy, and social interaction skills.

Aim: Create a device that will allow young children with profound speech disorders to immediately repeat and manipulate (such as change speed or pitch) a word or phrase that they hear in their environment.

Design Criteria:

  • The project must take into account that children with profound speech disorders also frequently have other significant motor impairments, so the design must be accessible to users with very limited fine motor control.
  • The design must be portable and reasonably durable to withstand messy hands and occasional falls.
Project Contact:
Elena Dukhovny, MA, CCC-SLP
Parents Helping Parents
elena -at-
Parents Helping Parents - San Jose

Back to top

Customize the Wheelchair Project

US Market Size Background:

  • About 2 million manual wheelchairs are in use today.
  • 60% of manual wheelchairs (1.2 million) are used by individuals 65 and older.
  • Wheelchair use by individuals 65 and older is five times greater than the entire population.
  • The number of citizens 65 and older is expected to grow from 40 million in 2010 to 55 million in 2020, requiring an additional 450,000 manual wheelchairs.
  • 80 million baby boomers started turning 65 this year (10,000 a day).

Problem: Individuals who use wheelchairs have little opportunity to extend their personal sense of fashion and aesthetics to these devices. This is exacerbated by the fact that the equipment covered by health insurance or Medicare is often the most "basic" version with a plain design. Whereas one's choice of clothes, shoes, accessories, and jewelry are made on a daily basis, users of wheelchairs have to "wear" the same equipment everyday and for every occasion.

Aim: Explore ways to add a personal aesthetic to wheelchairs.

Design Criteria:

  • The design should not alter or permanently deface or damage the physical structure of the wheelchair.
  • The customization should be able to easily be installed, removed, changed, cleaned, and washed by the user.
  • The design should work on a number of popular / standard wheelchairs covered by insurance and Medicare.
  • Consider different user personas and aesthetics (e.g. refined / elegant, modern / contemporary, smart / sporty, premium / luxury, male / female, as well as the age of user, etc).
  • Consider fabrics, metal finishes, color, patterns, light, texture, and text elements.
  • Consider a variety of usage occasions (e.g. in-home, outdoors, party, tailgater, etc).
  • The design should be inexpensive and easy to fabricate.
  • Also consider designs that would enhance wheelchair visibility while crossing streets.
Project Contacts:
Jennifer Smith - San Francisco
jennifer.dare.smith -at-

Marsha Maruyama, PT
Juana Briones Medical Therapy Unit
marsha.maruyama -at-

Deane Denney - Palo Alto VA Health Care System - Spinal Cord Injury Center
deanedenney -at-
Design Flair for the Least-Stylish Devices
Icon Wheelchairs

Back to top

Dog Leash Project

Problem: Wheelchair users who walk their pet dogs need their hands to both control their pets and propel their wheelchairs. A leash that is simply tied to the wheelchair can get caught under the wheels. And a strong dog may be able to tip the owner's wheelchair.

Aim: Explore designs for a dog leash system that will be easy for users to attach to their wheelchairs independently, prevent the leash from being caught under the wheelchair, and avoid being tipped over by a strong dog.

Design Criteria: The improved leash design can employ commercially available components, but must be simple in design, lightweight, easy to attach by pet owners with limited hand movement, provide a reliable release, and be inexpensive to fabricate.

Project Contacts:
Deborah Davis - Miami, FL
abildavis -at-

Elaine Levin
podnarover -at-

Deane Denney - Palo Alto VA Health Care System - Spinal Cord Injury Center
deanedenney -at-
photo of dog's leash caught in the wheel of a walker
Deborah's video pitch
Push Living
Wheelchair Leash Hook and Custom Lead
Petego Walky Dog Hands-Free Bicycle Leash

Back to top

Wireless Treat Dispenser

Problem: Many people with disabilities (not just blind) use highly trained service dogs or monkeys. Some individuals with disabilities are not able to reward their service animal's behavior with treats.

Aim: Explore a design for a simple wireless treat dispenser for service animals that would operate by a switch or a wireless signal.

Project Contact:
Henry Evans
hevans1000 -at-
Henry's Blog
Stroke AAC Success Story (video)
Article: Why AAC?
Scoop Bowls
X10 Products

Back to top

Projects suggested by RenovoRx

Background: RenovoRx is focused on enhancing treatment options for pancreatic cancer patients.

1. Virtual Community Project

Problem: For elderly people, hobbies are an important occupation for self-development and recreation, and are known to aid mental health. Music, reading, walking, playing golf, and collecting are common activities to spend time, either alone or with equally interested people. However, attending to these hobbies can be challenging for seniors with physical limitations and disabilities. The result is increased loneliness and segregation, which can negatively affect mental health.

Aim: The aim of this project is to explore and design an application or virtual community of elderly persons with same or similar interests. With broadband access to the internet, one has access not only emailing or chatting - online gaming and gambling are also be possible. A virtual community approach may help seniors maintain their hobbies, find new ones, and - most importantly - learn, engage, and to do so with their peers.

Design Criteria: The design must be easy to setup and use, affordable, and appeal to an older population of users (i.e. "playing cards" and "classic music" are preferable to "playing soccer" and "pop music"). It is very important for seniors to have control of their role in the community and to feel safe in using it. In addition, their privacy should be respected.

2. Elderly Drivers at the Wheel Project

Problem: For elderly people, a decrease in physical capabilities causes a lack of mobility. Not only walking can become difficult, but also driving. Typical changes that can diminish the abilities of elderly drivers are a slowdown in response time, a loss of clarity in vision and hearing, a loss of muscle strength and flexibility, drowsiness due to medications, and a reduction in the ability to focus or concentrate. Not only is the safety of elderly drivers at risk, but also that of other drivers and of pedestrians. Yet driving is essential, especially in rural areas where there is no access to public transportation.

Aim: The goal of this project is to research and create devices that are capable of restoring the ability and/or increasing the safety of elderly drivers. These assistive devices may be integrated with the car or used as an adjunct by the driver.

Design Criteria: The device must be easy to setup and use, affordable, and work with most automotive makes and models.

Senior Driving
Adaptive Driving Aids For Your Car

3. Household Tasks Project

Problem: Elderly people often find it difficult to perform everyday household tasks such as hanging curtains, fixing household devices, cleaning windows, ironing, and making the bed.

Aim: The goal is to explore and create devices that are capable of restoring the ability of elderly people to attend to daily household tasks, especially the most basic ones such as making the bed and ironing.

Design Criteria: The design should be intuitive and safe to use, highly reliable, lightweight, and easy to handle, clean, and store.

Project Contact:
Marta Gaia Zanchi, PhD - CEO
marta -at-

Back to top

Sailboat Seating Project

Background: Sailing is a competition sport as well as a therapeutic and recreational activity enjoyed by people everywhere. Access Dinghies are small sailboats that have been designed to accommodate the needs of a broad range of people who would like to participate in sailing including: individuals with moderate to severe disabilities, older adults, girls and women, young children, and those who are socially or economically disadvantaged or belong to an ethnic minority group.

Problem: Access Dinghy sailors who have a spinal cord injury have special seating requirements that include the need to both securely support their upper body as well as to provide sufficient freedom of movement to efficiently operate their sailboat.

The current seating system is hard, slippery, too wide at the hips, and positions the sailor in a reclined position which makes it difficult to reach forward to operate the sail rigging.

Aim: Explore a seating design for a sailor with quadriplegia that is adjustable, comfortable, functional, and secure.

Design Criteria: The seat itself should include an appropriate cushion, address the deficiencies of the current design, and be compact, foldable, and removable for storage and shipping.

Project Contact:
Fernanda Castelo
lizzenu -at-
Access Dinghy Foundation
Kathi Pugh sailing solo in McCovey Cove with Bay Area Association of Disabled sailors - :34 - YouTube video
Beneficial Designs' Canoe Seating System

Back to top

Projects suggested by LeVaunt

Background: LeVaunt, LLC is a private company investigating the market demands for seniors who wish to "age-in-place". The purpose of the investigation is to identify product opportunities and collaborate with research institutions, product development organizations, product design organizations, manufacturers, and distribution organizations to serve unmet needs of seniors who have disabilities or limitations that have a negative effect on their quality of life.

In a survey published by AARP Research and Strategic Analysis Healthy@Home 2.0 in April of 2011 89% of those over 50 years old strongly agreed with statement, "What I'd really like to do is to continue living on my own for as long as possible."

The potential market for quality-of-life enhancement among Americans 55 years of age or older is huge: 3 of 10 such Americans have difficulty stooping or bending, 1 of 10 has difficulty reaching or grasping, 15% have difficulty carrying 10 lb (4.5 kg), nearly one third have some hearing impairment, one fifth have lost all their natural teeth, and 1 of 4 has difficulty walking a quarter of a mile (0.4 km).

In the US there are 111 million households (2006) with 23% of households containing one or more individuals 64 years or older and 70% of population lives in single family homes (2001). Almost 22 million households are headed by older persons (2003) where 80% were owners and 20% were renters. Thirteen percent of the US population is between 65 and 74 years old. Forty-four percent of people who are older than 74 years have limitations due to one or more chronic conditions. The most frequently occurring conditions of elderly (2002-2003) were: hypertension (51%), diagnosed arthritis (48%), all types of heart disease (31%), any cancer (21%), diabetes (16.0%), and sinusitis (14%). In addition 22 million over the age of 65 reported physical difficulties including 14 million with difficulty walking ¼ mile and 11.5 million with difficulty climbing 10 steps while 1.7 to 2.3 million used wheeled mobility devices and 6.1 million use assistive devices such as canes, crutches, or walkers.

More background statistics

1. Flat House Project

Problem: Most housing in the US has one or more steps that must be negotiated for various activities of daily living. In order for seniors to remain in their current housing (as they desire), they must be able to negotiate steps or the steps must be eliminated. (Other than elevators and stair climbers, no product is known to currently meet this need.)

Aim: The aim of this project is to explore and design a solution that can be retrofitted to current housing for the outdoor step problem (entering and leaving a house), the indoor one step up or down on a single floor, and the multi-step problem of stairs.

Design Criteria: The design must be aesthetically pleasing, easy and safe to use, quiet in operation, conserve space, and economical. (Tradeoffs may be necessary in terms of economics, quiet operation, or space conservation but not in aesthetics, ease of use, or safety.)

2. Shower / Bathtub / Sink / Toilet Cleaning Project

Problem: In order for seniors to remain in their current housing (as they desire), they must be able to independently maintain the cleanliness of their house, including its shower, bathtub, sink, and toilet. While there are numerous cleaning products on the market, none adequately addresses the problem. [What are some of their limitations?]

Aim: The aim of this project is to explore and design a solution for the shower / bathtub / sink / toilet cleaning problem for a senior who experiences some or all of the disabilities listed.

Design Criteria: The design(s) must be economical, aesthetically pleasing, easy and safe to use while performing the cleaning task. The design will depend on the user's abilities.

Project Contact:
Jack W. Moorman - CEO
LeVaunt, LLC
jack.moorman -at-
Healthy@Home 2.0 (April 2011)

Back to top

Educational Activities for Children with Disabilities

Background: Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT) creates hands-on activity kits which 9,000 educators use to help nearly 1 million students master important concepts in school and after school each year.

A large percentage of the students these educators serve have disabilities (physical, mental, or emotional). RAFT is particularly popular with these educators because our hands-on activities often seem to "open up" disabled students and get them excited about learning and participating.

Problem: Special education teachers report that they often wish there were more activities focused on children with disabilities.

Aim: Investigate and develop new educational activities appropriate for children with disabilities. This may include mechanical and/or computer software solutions that will provide interactive access for these learners.

Design Criteria: The design must be appropriate for the intellectual and disability level of the students; must be very low cost; safe to use; easy to store, setup, explain, use, and ship; and must fit into the students' educational plan.

Other: Access to teachers and students will be provided.

Project Contact:
Greg Brown - Director of Education and Membership
Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT)
greg -at-


Back to top

Project employing NeuroSky's MindSet brain-computer interface

Background: NeuroSky's MindSet is a headset that senses and interprets EEG brainwaves and is able to determine the wearer's level of attention and meditation as well as detect when the wearer blinks. This information can be used to control a videogame or provide an interface to operate physical devices.

Aim: Explore an application for a person with a disability using the MindSet brain-computer interface product. Examples include the control of household appliances (lights, TV, music system), operation of Bluetooth devices (iPhone), construction of an on-screen keyboard, and design of a communication system for non-vocal users with limited manipulation skills.

Design Criteria: The device should be appropriate for the user's abilities and be simple to configure and use.

Project Contact:
Johnny Liu - Manager
Neurosky BCI Technologies
johnnyliu -at-

Back to top

Projects suggested by Berke Prosthetics / Orthotics

1. Toileting and/or showering aid for a bilateral upper extremity amputee

Background: The loss of both hands due to trauma or birth defect is classified as a 95% disability, often requiring complete attendant care for feeding, bathing, toileting, and other activities of daily living.

Problem: Prostheses are wonderful devices for providing a level of independence with eating, mobility, and self care - but cannot be used for toileting or showering due positioning, sanitation, and comfort issues. The problem for those with limb loss is how to clean up after using the restroom. How does one wash their hair, shave, or scrub one's body if their prostheses can't be used?

Aim: Design an assistive device that provides increased independence for a male user with a bilateral traumatic trans-radial (below the elbow) amputation. The device should also work for those with various levels of bilateral upper extremity amputation.

Design Criteria: This device could either attach to the body or the environment and should be stable, washable, replaceable, waterproof, relatively inexpensive, and reliable. It must provide improved independence in its application and use.

Toileting Aids
Rehabilitation without Prostheses: Functional Skills Training
Toileting self-care methods for bilateral high level upper limb amputees

2. Prosthetic for a child playing on monkey bars (new for 2013)

Aim: Explore designs for a device for a child with a missing hand or arm that would allow him/her to play on the monkey bars.

3. Prosthetic for a child throwing and catching a ball (new for 2013)

Aim: Explore designs for a device for a child with a missing hand or arm that would allow him/her to throw and catch a ball.

4. Dressing aid (new for 2013)

Aim: Explore designs for anyone with an upper extremity impairment to help them button their pants and shirt (including sleeves).

Project Contact:
Gary M. Berke, MS, CP, FAAOP
Adjunct Clinical Instructor
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery
Stanford University
gmberke -at-

Back to top

Projects with veterans with spinal cord injury

1. Problems and needs expressed at SCI Peer Support Group Meeting

Manipulating objects:
  • picking up dropped items, especially from under tables or chairs
  • reaching items high on shelves
  • carrying items such as groceries
  • retrieving mail from mailbox
  • BBQ implements
  • handling a bank card at an ATM
  • handling money - both coins and bills (new for 2013)
Accessing the real-world:
  • charging system for powered wheelchair users
  • iPhone camera mount for a photographer with C5/6 quadriplegia
  • opening doors
  • opening a 2-liter bottle
  • preparing food and cooking tasks, including making sandwiches and heating soup
  • controlling appliances such as the TV, telephone, electric bed, music system, nurse call, etc.
    HouseMate ECU for Android Configurator
    VoiceIR Environmental Voice Controller Configurator
  • transferring to / from wheelchair to bed or shower
  • tele-visiting / tele-working with family / co-workers at home/office during hospital stay
  • selecting groceries remotely for delivery
  • design for an arm ergometer that would allow users to strap themselves in
  • a joystick design that would accommodate a variety of shaft geometries
  • a cup holder that can fit on any wheelchair
Recreational activities:
Caregiver (family, nurse, and therapist) assistance
Project Contact:
Deane F. Denney
Palo Alto VA Health Care System
Spinal Cord Injury Peer Support Group
deanedenney -at-

2. Fishing rod, wheelchair brackets, accessible digital camera, lap tray system

  • A device to operate a fishing rod for a user without use of upper extremity - to reel the line in/out, lock the reel, etc (new for 2012)
    some existing products from Broadened Horizons
  • A bracket design for new power wheelchairs that would allow use of an overhead sling system
  • A bracket system for power wheelchairs that would work with a mobile arm support system
  • A device that would allow a high level quadriplegia (C4) to use a digital camera. It need not be able to adjust position of camera, but it should include a feature to snap a photo for users with diminished hand function.
    some existing products from Broadened Horizons
  • A lap tray system that is compatible with the new wheelchair designs
Project Contact:
Janet Weis
VA Palo Alto Health Care System
janet.weis -at-

Back to top

Projects for persons recovering from stroke

1. Standing Straight Project

Problem: Persons recovering from stroke (CVA) often have a significant shift in their perceived center of gravity. This causes them to shift their weight to their unaffected side, with their head and / or trunk at a 20 degree angle, even though they think they are sitting or standing straight. This has a significant negative effect on the tone of their affected limbs, causing them to become more spastic.

Aim: The goal of this project is to develop a dynamic device that would aid the person to realize their true center thus enabling better rehabilitation of their limbs.

Other: A similar device could be used for people recovering from back injury that would alert them when they bend at the back rather than keeping it straight during lifting.

2. Sock Donning Aid

Problem: Most sock donning aids require two hands to put the sock on the aid. These aids are used by people who have hemiplegia and also have a limited range of motion of their hips and / or knees, making crossing their legs so that the ankle rests on the intact leg (in order to don the sock) impossible.

Aim: Explore a new design for a sock donning aid that can be used with one hand.

Other: Most of these individuals forgo putting on socks altogether, but still some people would really benefit, for cardiovascular reasons, in wearing support socks / hose.

3. Cellphone and Tablet Holder (new for 2013)

Aim: Explore designs for a device that would make it easier to hold and use cellphone and tablets with one hand. This would serve individuals who have had a stroke, who have arthritis, cerebral palsy, or are amputees.

Project Contact:
Debbie Kenney
kenney5 -at-
Tablet Design - UC Ergonomics

Back to top

Other project ideas

  1. Accessible interfaces for commonly-used devices:
    iPods / iPads / mp3 players
    Remote controls

  2. Online multi-site tele-videogames for seniors

  3. Revisit projects listed in NSF guide:
    Engineering Senior Design Projects to Aid Persons with Disabilities

  4. Student-defined projects:
    Interview, observe, and discuss assistive technology needs with an individual with a disability. Address their need to participate in the following areas by designing a device that either facilitates using usual tools or creates a new tool.

    Creative Expression - writing, painting, sculpture, pottery, jewelry, quilting, photography, music, etc

    Activities of Daily Living - cooking, showering or bathing, dressing, cleaning, housework, yard work, employment, education, shopping, commuting, etc

    Sports and Exercise - walking, running, indoor and outdoor sports, etc

    Leisure Activities and Hobbies - collecting, model making, crafts, board games & videogames, etc

Project Coach:
David L. Jaffe, MS

Back to top

Updated 02/20/2013

Back to Homepage

back to homepage