Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Student AT engineering projects news coverage

UATP has been in the Cache County news recently for the assistive technology devices Utah State University engineering student's have been creating through our AT Lab with the guidance of Dr. Steve Hansen; to learn more visit this blog post.
Dr. Steve Hansen (far left), Amy Henningsen (2nd from left),
LJ Wilde (standing), and Albert La Bounty (right), during a
demonstration of the automatic mechanic's creeper built
by student engineers including Wilde.

Click the medium below for the story:
Logan Herald Journal
Cache Valley Daily
The Utah Statesman
The Hard News Cafe
Deseret News
Center for Persons with Disabilities Blog
USU Blog
Utah State Today
KSL 5 News

Also, a short story will air on Logan's KVNU radio and possibly National Public Radio. Don't forget, we need the public's input for device ideas that student's can design. Let us know!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

USU engineering students build new assistive technology under NSF grant

By Storee Powell

LOGAN – Engineering students at Utah State University are building innovative assistive technology devices geared to help the over 70,000,000 aging baby boomers in the U.S.

But the students need ideas from the community on potential needs by aging individuals with disabilities that can be translated into functioning assistive technology.

Assistive technology (AT), according to the Assistive Technology Act, is tools and resources used by individuals with disabilities to help improve their quality of life and increase their independence. Aging adults often experience progressive disabilities; those which start small but become more debilitating, such as decreased vision or mobility.

Students utilized the expertise of the Utah Assistive Technology Lab as well as their facilities to build the projects. The AT Lab is a part of a non-profit program mandated under the federal Assistive Technology Act – or the Utah Assistive Technology Program. The AT Lab provides assistive technology demonstrations, services and research to the Utah public.

One such student project is the wheelchair lift that makes putting a manual wheelchair into a car physically easier for people with disabilities and their families. James Somers, USU graduate in mechanical engineering, was on the team that built the device.

Somers said about his experience building the project, “Assistive technologies have made it possible for me to apply and use some of my mechanical engineering skills to solve real world problems. Helping others is one of the greatest labors that anyone can do in this life and I am thankful that opportunities have been provided to me to help the world in some small way.”

Students LJ Wilde and Andrew Shupe with
the mechanic's creeper they built to aid
people with disabilities who want to
continue to work as a mechanic.

Another successful project is a mechanic’s creeper built by students that takes away the need for agility to get under a car by automatically lowering the person to the ground (pictured right). The device was built for Albert La Bounty, a Logan resident who lost the use of his legs after a motorcycle accident 20-years-ago.
Research Professor Steve Hansen in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department at USU, teaches the design class that instructs the students during the building process of the AT projects.

Hansen said he realized there was a need for new assistive technologies for the aging population, and decided to do something about it.

Dr. Hansen said, “I am now a senior citizen and I am beginning to develop some of the aches and pains associated with aging. I found that many assistive technology devices are made for those with more severe disabilities that happened at birth or from an accident.”

Working with the Utah Assistive Technology Lab at USU, a program that is part of the Center for Persons with Disabilities (CPD), Hansen had his students begin to build innovative AT projects in 2009.

After two years and several projects later, Hansen learned of a proposal request from the National Science Foundation for the development of assistive technologies using university design courses. The submitted proposal, Engineering Design to Assist Aging Persons (EDAAP), won $125,000; or $25,000 every year for five years. 

Patents are currently being sought for some of the completed projects, and among other goals, Hansen hopes to see them manufactured.

Hansen said, “I was quite ignorant about the needs of AT until I began working with the Center for Persons with Disabilities sponsoring design projects for the classes. Now that I know, I am seeking sustainable funding for future design projects and we really need public feedback on what AT devices people need that are not available.”

Ideas for assistive technology devices that will assisti individuals with disabilities in the aging population can be submitted to Dr. Hansen at