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Capstone Design Projects: Helping The Disabled

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Design for Community

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.281.1 - 7.281.7



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Paper Authors

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Darrell Gibson

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Patricia Brackin

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Session 2625

Capstone Design Projects: Enabling the Disabled

Patricia Brackin, J. Darrell Gibson Department of Mechanical Engineering Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology


The purpose of this paper is to show how some of the ABET EC 2000 criteria can be satisfied with “service-learning” student design projects. In addition to meeting ABET requirements, these “designing for the disabled” types of team design projects have other, less obvious, educational benefits that are not normally met with the traditional industrial projects. Several examples of these types of projects will be discussed showing their specific educational benefits.


Service-learning is receiving increased attention from educators because of the opportunities for helping the community while demonstrating ABET EC 2000 criteria. Service learning projects are typically sponsored by a community partner and give students the opportunity to interact with people outside their socio-economic groups and disciplines, and also include issues other than engineering. At Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology the senior mechanical engineering capstone design courses traditionally have included projects to help the handicapped. These projects are initiated by a variety of groups such as local hospitals, schools, physicians, therapists, and support groups.

These service-learning projects require different skills from an industrial sponsored project. With industrial projects, the sponsors are usually engineers who can explain their problem in technical language. With service-learning projects students must communicate with non-technical people and interpret loosely developed problem statements such as, “I want to be able to brush my hair without help.” This communication directly relates to EC 2000 Criterion 3 (g), “an ability to communicate effectively” and EC 2000 Criterion 3 (c), “an ability to design a system, component, or process to meet desired needs.” The students must listen attentively, think creatively, and then design a product to meet a specific need. Often a high level of technical expertise is not required, but rather an innovative use of common components to meet a very specialized need. Past projects used by the authors have been very diverse and have ranged from the design of a wheelchair accessible power tool bench for high school industrial arts to a pediatric mobile arm support.

“Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright Ó 2002, American Society for Engineering Education”

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Gibson, D., & Brackin, P. (2002, June), Capstone Design Projects: Helping The Disabled Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--10407

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