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Student Biomedical Engineering Team Earns National Honor for Designing Assistive Device

June 20, 2013

         NISH Award Winners
  Helping Others: Recent biomedical engineering graduates (from left) Carley Shumate, Brianne Widmoyer, and Emily Lakes designed and manufactured a cornstarch dispensing system device that help employees for Terre Haute’s Development Services Inc. break through barriers and improve working conditions. (Photo by Terry Miller).
 

An innovative work assistive cornstarch dispensing system device designed by biomedical engineering students to increase productivity at a Terre Haute company has earned national recognition in this year’s AbilityOne Design Challenge for collegiate engineering students.

Recent graduates Emily Lakes, Carley Shumate, and Brianne Widmoyer received second-place honors in the competition that encourages development of assistive technologies that empower people with disabilities to break through employment barriers. The award was announced on June 19 in Washington, D.C., during the Grassroots Advocacy Conference, sponsored by NISH, one of two federally designated nonprofit agencies that facilitate the AbilityOne Program.

Created for Development Services Inc. (DSI), the cornstarch dispensing system transfers two teaspoons of cornstarch into small plastic bags using a motorized chute and gate system. DSI clients fill 5,000 bags twice a year for the production of medical gloves. The bag size and static buildup in the funnel-based system had caused messy and potentially dangerous working conditions.

The student team’s new device has increased productivity by 290 percent, and made the job available to employees with poor fine motor skills and allergies to cornstarch. In addition, the improved dispensing system created a significantly safer working environment by reducing spillage.

“Finding innovative ways to break down barriers to employment for people with significant disabilities is crucial to their development in our communities,” says NISH President and Chief Executive Officer Bob Chamberlin. “We are excited about this year’s winners because their designs reflect great passion, dedication and innovation.”

Watch a video about Rose-Hulman’s award-winning device at http://youtu.be/BcLt0EFV9WE.

“It feels great to use what we’ve learned in the classroom to help people in our own community perform their job better,” says Widmoyer, who designed the device’s structural support system.

Shumate adds, “While I’m thrilled that we did so well in the competition, I’m more enthused that we could impact everyone at DSI in a positive way, especially helping make their jobs something they look forward to each day.”

Lakes designed and manufactured the device’s gate mechanism, a critical component which insured the correct cornstarch flow and measurements—making the job less frustrating for clients. 

“Working with DSI was a very positive experience, and I am glad we were able to design a device that will help their clients,” states Lakes, who accepted the award for the team at NISH’s congressional reception during the Grassroots Advocacy Conference. 

Serving as mentors for this senior-year project were biomedical engineering faculty members Kay C Dee, PhD; Glen Livesay, PhD; and Renee Rogge, PhD. Department technician Tom Rogge provided technical assistance.