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Leveraging Rehabilitation Needs Into Freshman Engineering Design Projects

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

FPD4 -- Real-World Case Studies & Projects

Tagged Division

First-Year Programs

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.892.1 - 11.892.12



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Paper Authors

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Roth Elliot Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago


Phillip Jacob Northwestern University

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Phillip Jacob is the Marketing Coordinator for the freshman engineering and design course (EDC) at Northwestern University. He has been involved in recruiting real world design projects and clients for over five years. In addition to identifying and screening project proposals for
the nearly 200 teams per year, he meets regularly with the core faculty to plan curriculum and logistics of the freshman design course. Before joining Northwestern, Phillip completed an
internship with an international trade organization and has(and continues to)lead work teams with Habitat for Humanity International. Phillip received a BA from the University of Illinois and also studied at DePaul University and at McGill University.

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Stacy Benjamin Northwestern University

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Stacy Benjamin joined IDEA in 2004 as a Senior Design Engineer and Adjunct Faculty. Within IDEA, she is a member of the core faculty to develop and teach the freshman Engineering Design and Communication course (EDC) and the upper level Interdiciplinary Design Projects I & II courses. Stacy also mentors student teams working on IDEA Institute Projects. Prior to coming to Northwestern, Stacy worked for 9 years at IDEO, the world's leading product development firm. She contributed to a range of products including consumer, business and medical devices as a mechanical engineer and Senior Project Manager. Stacy has an MSME from UCLA and a BSME from the University of Rochester in Rochester, NY.

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Bruce Ankenman Northwestern University

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James Colgate Northwestern University

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

second quarter. However, the automotive projects themselves were not well supported by clients. The intention was to have clients who were employees at a large (but distant) automotive interior design firm. However, these employees simply did not have enough time to work with the 100 teams of students and EDC faculty ended up acting as clients for most of these projects. Students were asked to find their own users which worked well for some projects and poorly for others. Another issue with both the websites and the automotive projects was that they were primarily commercially based, leading some students and faculty to desire projects that were more socially conscious.

The problem for the EDC faculty was now fairly well posed, “For the first quarter of EDC, we want a large group of projects that have similar theme. The projects will allow students to have external, knowledgeable clients and access to a pool of potential users. Finally, the projects will be physical in nature, small-scale, able to be built by freshman in 10 weeks, and preferably have a social benefit.”

Introduction to RIC and RRTC

The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) is the leading rehabilitation hospital in the US (as ranked by US News and World Report for the last 15 years). They have a plethora of programs for treatment of complex conditions including cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury, stroke and traumatic brain injury, as well as more common conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain and sports injuries. RIC also provides specialized services such as Assistive Technology, Prosthetics and Orthotics and Vocational Rehabilitation which help individuals of all ages lead more independent and fulfilling lives.

In 2002, RIC and Northwestern received funding from NIDRR to operate research and training projects under the Rehabilitation and Research Training Center (RRTC). The center is focused on finding the technology-assisted solutions for stroke survivors to achieve independence in their home and community environments. Part of the mission of this center is to engage engineering students in the development of novel designs to assist in accomplishing common tasks that prove difficult for stroke survivors. Patients with disabilities present a variety of physical and emotional needs, many of which can be readily addressed by engineers. Stroke causes a number of specific problems. Weakness or paralysis of the arm and leg are the most comment effects, but other problems including sensory changes, speech and language disorders, cognitive deficits, swallowing dysfunction, and visual changes, also affect a stroke patient's ability to function. These deficits cause disabilities in daily functioning such as dressing, bathing, and walking. Rehabilitation consists of measures to improve the patient's ability to perform activities of daily living, including dressing, bathing, and walking, through training, supervised practice, counseling, and the use of specialized equipment. The center also is charged with increasing the awareness of the great potential for rehabilitation for stroke survivors. Student design projects can also aid in achieving this second goal since students get first hand knowledge and experience with the effects and rehabilitation of stroke survivors.

Elliot, R., & Jacob, P., & Benjamin, S., & Ankenman, B., & Colgate, J. (2006, June), Leveraging Rehabilitation Needs Into Freshman Engineering Design Projects Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--1166

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