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Assistive Technology Devices A Multidisciplinary Course

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

Collaborative Programs and Courses

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.240.1 - 9.240.7

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Paper Authors

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Ying Sun

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Robert Comerford

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Musa Jouaneh

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Assistive Technology Devices: A Multidisciplinary Course

Musa Jouaneh, Ying Sun, Robert Comerford

University of Rhode Island Kingston, RI 02881


This paper reports on a team-based, project-oriented engineering and business course at the University of Rhode Island. The class is a two-semester course sequence that emphasizes invention, innovation and entrepreneurship with focus on the marketing, design, and development of assistive technology devices. Faculty from the Colleges of Engineering and Business Administration guide multi-disciplinary teams through innovative product-oriented design projects in the field of assistive technology. Teams are made up of junior and senior level biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and business majors. In the first offering of this course in 2002/2003, a total of 21 students were split into 4 teams. This year, 32 students are split into 5 teams. Teams build prototypes of their designs, prepare business plans, prepare patent applications, and seek commercialization opportunities. The paper discusses course conduct, student assessment, and experiences learned form teaching an interdisciplinary course. This course provides new experiences and capabilities for students that enhance their opportunities of pursuing product design and entrepreneurial activities in their careers.


The assistive technology (AT) industry is characterized by a diversity of AT devices that have limited market potential. Relatively few of them, unlike wheelchairs and hearing aids, have sustainable markets to support mass production and standard business models for consumer products1,2. For a majority of AT needs, a question often arises about the technological and financial feasibility of proposed devices. Engineers who develop AT devices should consider both cost-effectiveness, by using off-the-shelf components, and maximizing market potential, by utilizing universal design. A new AT device that does not have sufficient market potential to launch a small business on its own may have to be transferred by licensing, sale or joint venturing to an existing firm that possesses the appropriate manufacturing capability and asset base. Thus, assistive technology presents a unique set of marketing and financial challenges for engineers and business people, not to mention the technical challenges, that demand tight collaboration among them to deliver successful products with short times-to-market.

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Sun, Y., & Comerford, R., & Jouaneh, M. (2004, June), Assistive Technology Devices A Multidisciplinary Course Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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