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Fostering Senior Design Projects That Change Lives

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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

Innovative Curriculum in E/M ET

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.573.1 - 7.573.8

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Paper Authors

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Marvin Needler

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Kenneth Rennels

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Patricia Fox

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

Main Menu Session 3150

Fostering Senior Design Projects that Change Lives

Ken Rennels, Marvin Needler, Dr. Chuck Dietzen, M.D., Patricia Fox, Scott Blackwell, Michael Venne, Lisa Hickman-Lause, Paula Jenkins-Williams, Elaine Cooney, Robert Herman

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis/Timmy Foundation

A few years ago, an engineering student recovering from leukemia found himself in a conversation with his doctor on how engineering and engineering technology students could use their talents to help children with special needs. That conversation started a relationship with the Chief of Staff at St. Vincent Children’s Specialty Hospital in Indianapolis and the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI). The result was a life-changing event for a little boy named Ian Farrar. This paper will discuss that project in length and ways in which other schools or institutions can foster relationships in their community that make a difference in someone’s life.


Ian Farrar was born in 1993 with severe physical disabilities and was given a life expectancy of only a few minutes. However, blessed with a tremendous spirit and will to live, Ian did survive and turned 8 years old in December 2001. Ian has been diagnosed with holoprosencephaly (failure of the forebrain to divide into hemispheres or lobes), hydrocephalus (excessive accumulation of fluid causing an enlargement of the cranium and atrophy of the brain), maladron syndrome, cranial facial disorder and diabetes insipidus. These physical handicaps have left Ian with partially developed limbs and an enlarged head. At age 7, Ian was not able to walk, instead moving by rolling or scooting.

Ian came to the attention of students and faculty of the Purdue School of Engineering and Technology at IUPUI though contact with Dr. Chuck Dietzen, M.D. who at the time was the Chief of Staff at St. Vincent Children’s Specialty Hospital in Indianapolis. Dr. Chuck, as his patients know him, was introduced to the school by an Electrical Engineering major at IUPUI and a patient of Dr. Chuck while recovering from leukemia. Dr. Dietzen was asked and joined the Dean’s Industrial Advisory Committee (DIAC) and became an active member. Dr. Dietzen identified several children and young adults with severe physical challenges who could benefit from specialized engineering design of life-enhancing devices.

Jeep Design Project

When approached by faculty, Electrical Engineering Technology senior Mike Venne1 and Mechanical Engineering Technology senior Scott Blackwell2 readily agreed to a joint, interdisciplinary senior design to give Ian Farrar mobility. These two students met with Ian and

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Needler, M., & Rennels, K., & Fox, P. (2002, June), Fostering Senior Design Projects That Change Lives Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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