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Senior Design Projects To Aid The Disabled

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2001 Annual Conference


Albuquerque, New Mexico

Publication Date

June 24, 2001

Start Date

June 24, 2001

End Date

June 27, 2001



Page Count


Page Numbers

6.871.1 - 6.871.11



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Paper Authors

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Sundar Krishnamurty

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Robert Gao

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John Ritter

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Donald Fisher

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Janis Terpenny

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

Session 2325

Senior Design Projects to Aid the Disabled

Janis Terpenny, Robert Gao, John Ritter, Donald Fisher, and Sundar Krishnamurty Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering University of Massachusetts Amherst, MA 01003-2210


A new two-semester capstone senior design course sequence in the area of assistive technology has been developed and integrated within the established curriculum of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst. Entitled “Senior Design Projects to Aid the Disabled,” the capstone sequence includes close collaborations with the Lemelson Assistive Technology Development Center (LATDC) at Hampshire College and Adaptive Design Services (ADS) under the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation (DMR). The new design course allows students to work directly with collaborators and disabled clients to solve specific assistive technology design problems. Through these projects, students enhance and reinforce concepts learned in their engineering education. At the conclusion of the sequence, each student will have conceived, modeled, analyzed, and built a functional prototype of a mechanical and/or electromechanical device that satisfies the specific need of an individual client. Early results of merging engineering education and an area of social significance have been very positive. Students have welcomed both the hands-on and personal contribution aspects of their projects. In many cases, projects have led to research extensions, additional community connections, and for many students, inspiration to continue with graduate studies. The objective of this paper is to report on the motivation, design, and results of the capstone course sequence in assistive technology. Specific projects, past and current, are also highlighted.

1. Introduction

In recent years, assistive technology has gained an increasing importance for people with visual, auditory, cognitive, or physical disabilities. Presently, over 35 million people in the United States have disabling conditions. This number is predicted to increase steadily over the next twenty years as the “baby boomer” generation ages1. In fact, the number of adults over 65 is the fastest growing segment of the population and will remain so for an extended period of time. It has been estimated that the average American spends approximately 12 years of their life as a person with disabilities. Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act2 in 1990, support in universities, private industry, and both state and federal governments has grown rapidly for using assistive technology to improve the lives of people with special needs. Private

Proceedings of the 2001 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright  2001, American Society for Engineering Education

Krishnamurty, S., & Gao, R., & Ritter, J., & Fisher, D., & Terpenny, J. (2001, June), Senior Design Projects To Aid The Disabled Paper presented at 2001 Annual Conference, Albuquerque, New Mexico. 10.18260/1-2--9767

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