SOUTHFIELD, Mich. – People with disabilities often face major problems adjusting to the workplace. Engineering students at Lawrence Technological University have spent the fall semester designing products and technologies to overcome them.
The Lawrence Tech students will display their ideas in a design expo beginning at 9:15 a.m. Monday, Dec. 5 and Tuesday, Dec. 6, in the university’s new A. Alfred Taubman Engineering, Architecture, and Life Sciences complex.
The students are taking a sophomore-level class, Entrepreneurial Engineering Design Studio, that requires them to solve a real-world problem using engineering skills. This fall, they’ve been working with a nonprofit agency, Dearborn-based Services to Enhance Potential, and StoneCrest Behavioral Health Center in Detroit, to develop products to help with disability-related needs in the workplace.
STEP works with people with disabilities to train and place them in meaningful employment, and StoneCrest provides employment opportunities to STEP clients. Through the partnership, students met with STEP clients and learned about disability employment, designing specific products to meet client needs.
“Before our partnership with STEP, our students did not have the opportunity to design something that creates value for real customers, so the projects always felt a little bit artificial,” said Cristi Bell-Huff, SEED director at LTU. “Having an actual customer that is depending on the success of your design and can offer real feedback on your ideas makes these projects so much more engaging and relevant. We really appreciate STEP being willing to work with us and our students.”
Added Heidi Morano, SEED project engineer: “The students are truly invested in designing a product that will make a positive impact on the jobs and lives of the STEP workers. We are so grateful for our partnership with STEP and for the ability to provide our students the setting to foster real empathy in design.”
Steve Slayton, STEP resource center director, said that “the relationship with Lawrence Tech has been rewarding on many levels. I could not be more impressed with every aspect of the University; from the campus to the faculty and most of all the students. The way the students were able to engage and analyze the needs of the people we serve has been truly inspiring. Many of the designs developed by the students will not only improve the efficiency of our clients’ work but also eliminate barriers that will allow people to perform new types of work. STEP looks forward to continuing this relationship with LTU for years to come.”
About LTU’s Studio for Entrepreneurial Engineering Design (SEED)
The Studio for Entrepreneurial Engineering Design (SEED) was made possible by funding from the Kern Family Foundation and now serves as a hub for the development of an entrepreneurial and innovative culture at LTU. SEED is the home of curricular and extracurricular activities all aimed at the development of an entrepreneurial mindset that our students can combine with their developing engineering skillset.
About Services To Enhance Potential (STEP)
Services to Enhance Potential (STEP) is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit organization, which provides support and services to more than 1,300 persons with disabilities and other mental health needs in Wayne County. A major goal of STEP is to increase the number of persons who are employed, self-employed, and volunteer in their communities. STEP provides and supports a variety of employment and self-employment options. For more information, visit www.stepcentral.org. For ways to partner with STEP, contact Steve Slayton at email@example.com.