LTU places second in nation in contest to develop technologies for people with disabilities

Release Date: June 27, 2019
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LTU's SourceAmerica competition team with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)
Photo courtesy Heidi Morano.

Lawrence Technological University finished second in the nation in the annual College Design Challenge, held Wednesday in Vienna, Va. by SourceAmerica, a nonprofit that creates employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

It’s the third straight year that LTU was named one of the three national finalists in the event.

In this national engineering competition, students develop a piece of technology or a process designed to overcome a workplace obstacle for persons with disabilities. The invention must be tested, implemented and used in the workplace. Students then submit a video, technical paper with 3D models and testing data to highlighting the results of their invention. 

Students from an LTU sophomore-level design course worked with Services to Enhance Potential (STEP), a Dearborn-based nonprofit that provides employment support and services to nearly 1,300 persons with disabilities in Wayne County. The students’ design, called an Assembly Jig and Counting Pole, aided workers in the assembly of two rubber rings together, reducing pain from repetitive hand motion. Said the judges: “Employees at STEP found the device interesting and helpful in their job and use it every day.”

“Having finalists from LTU three consecutive years at the SourceAmerica Design Challenge, we have demonstrated that our sophomore studio design course provides a platform for our engineering undergrads unlike any other,” said Heidi Morano, director of LTU’s Entrepreneurial Engineering Design Curriculum. “Our students utilize their burgeoning technical skills to solve a real problem for a real customer, while building their entrepreneurial mindset. They recognize an opportunity for design and address that opportunity in a way that brings real value to that customer. Our team in the finals this year, JAAR, displayed the empathy needed to develop innovative, customer-driven designs.”

SourceAmerica President and CEO Vince Loose noted that “this unique competition provides college students an opportunity to address employment issues of people with disabilities and create custom, innovative solutions using technology. The members of the winning teams, and all of the SourceAmerica Design Challenge participants, have made extraordinary connections with individuals with disabilities and gained new perspectives that may well impact their professional careers and their contributions to society for years to come.”

Judges for the SourceAmerica Design Challenge are rehabilitation engineers, people with disabilities, and others with relevant backgrounds. They evaluate the projects based on positive impact in the workplace—job creation and retention, wage increases, production increases, contracts gained, waste reduction, stress and anxiety reduction, and improved processes.

The other finalists in the competition were Ohio University and Virginia Tech.

During their visit to Vienna, Va., just outside Washington D.C., for the finals, the teams also participated in training sessions and in congressional visits on Capitol Hill. (Photos of the team with both of Michigan's United States Senators, Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, are above and below.)

For more information about SourceAmerica’s Design Challenge, visit www.sourceamerica.org/design-challenge/home.

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LTU's SourceAmerica team with U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.)
Photo courtesy Heidi Morano.

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