Friday, February 27, 2009

N.Y. high school students take second place in assistive technology competition

From Newsday's Huntington Local blog:

Team Commack took second place Thursday in the 2009 JETS/AbilityOne NEDC National Finals Competition, held in Arlington, Virginia. The Junior Engineering and Technological Society (JETS) sponsors a National Engineering Design Competition (NEDC) annually that challenges students in grades 9-12 to design and build an assistive technology device to help a person with severe disabilities to succeed in his or her workplace.

Commack High School students have succeeded in meeting that challenge, and the team’s design product was one of five finalists in the nation. The students’ all-out effort was a redesign of the reception area at United Cerebral Palsy of Suffolk (UCP) with their product called NOW (New Office Workspace), a custom-made universal integrated system of products to meet the needs of an individual with cerebral palsy in the workplace (pictured).

The Commack Cougars team's number two spot for Outstanding Assistive Technology Design was accompanied by other honors. The team was awarded "Best Display" for their visual presentation by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers, and "Best CAD Design" (Computer Aided Drawing) by the SolidWorks company. The Commack Cougars received a monetary award of $1,500 along with two trophies and a plaque. Each of the 15 team members received a gold medal for their innovative solution.

NOW was inspired by Jerina Porterfield, UCP’s receptionist, one of the many individuals affected by Cerebral Palsy. The team designed NOW to meet the
needs of Jerina, and potentially thousands of other individuals, affected by Cerebral Palsy in an office environment. There are no products currently available for purchase that come close to the features of the NOW. The NOW system extended Jerina’s limited reach with the installation of three pull-out Plexiglas surfaces on the desk. A photocopier was mounted on a lazy Susan on the center Plexiglas surface.

To assist Jerina with the organizational requirement of her job, two rotating filing shelves were designed and attached them to the outer Plexiglas surfaces, also on lazy Susans. Additionally, an extendable shelf drawer was installed above her head in a cabinet. An electromechanical elevating drawer was installed on the lower right hand side of Jerina’s desk to allow Jerina to safely access materials in the drawer. The combination of these components of the NOW will increase Jerina’s productivity, ultimately fulfilling the team’s goal of helping people with disabilities in the workplace.

The team was accompanied to the competition by advisors Leslie Kaplan, Richard Kurtz and Joseph Castrogivanni, and Commack High School Assistant Principal Catherine Nolan, who were thrilled to showcase the NOW team and project. Celebrating the win, in a phone call from the competition, Nolan said, "As educators, we feel incredibly privileged to have experienced the NEDC competition. It was an opportunity to witness our remarkably talented students at their best, whereby they harnessed their individual strengths collaboratively embracing their mission to enhance the lives of others."

"The students worked extremely hard on this project, and the outcome was evident in their design and presentation," said Leslie Kaplan, advisor to the Cougars and high school technology teacher. "Their dedication to improve the quality of life for others is immeasurable."

The team also produced a detailed report and very professional video of the design, construction, and utilization of the NOW as a requirement for the competition finals.

The national finalists competing were:

  • Team: Engineering Design Class. Device:The Syringe Holding and Guidance System (SHAGS). From: Bishop Kelly HS, Boise, ID.

  • Team: Commack Cougars. Device: The New Office Workspace (NOW). From:
    Commack High School, Commack, NY.

  • Team: Catapultam Habeo. Device: The Handy Typer. From: Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School, Grand Rapids, MI.

  • Team: SUA. Device: The Lift-a-tray. From: St. Ursula Academy, Toledo, OH.

  • Team: Eagles. Device: The Easy Access Transport System (E.A.T.S.). From: Wethersfield High School, Wethersfield, CT.