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Tomorrow's Engineers Making a Difference Today!
February 4, 2019

Tomorrow's Engineers Making a Difference Today!

What do wheelchair attachments and robots have in common? Both are assistive technology solutions for workers with disabilities!

Individuals with cerebral palsy that work at Grab & Go Café, in the office of NYSID member agency Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State, deliver food and drinks from the café to staff throughout the building. These individuals often struggle with being able to carry only one or two items from the café at a time. If a customer orders a hot item, workers are unable to transport those items due to fear of spills and burns. 

To combat this issue, engineering students at Cooper Union are designing a wheelchair attachment that will allow workers at the cafe to carry more items safely. The design will include an element of rigidity to prevent the spilling of food and drinks while using fabric for flexibility and comfort for the user, all while increasing productivity in the workplace. 

Workers and students at NYSID member agency Living Resources have faced challenges that limit their ability to work independently. For example, workers that struggle with handling emotional distress often require the assistance of a caregiver or supervisor to help manage their emotions. However, there may not always be a caregiver or supervisor to assist the individual in a timely manner. The solution? Students at SUNY Albany are designing a service robot named E-Misty Bot that is able to autonomously roam the workplace, check the emotional status of an individual through their facial expressions and immediately report any incidents when detected.

NYSID’s CREATE (Cultivating Resources for Employment with Assistive TEchnology) program partners its member agencies with student engineers across the state for the purpose of developing assistive technology innovation to remove barriers from the workplace. CREATE offers student engineers the opportunity to put their knowledge to use in the context of a real-life experience to benefit New Yorkers with disabilities.

This year, a record nine colleges and universities along with 11 NYSID member agencies will be participating. A combined 21 projects are slated for development. Again this year, NYSID will incentivize students with prize money for the first, second and third place teams: $15,000, $10,000 & $5,000 respectively. Projects will be evaluated by professionals in the fields of engineering and vocational rehabilitation.

“It was a pleasure to work with the CREATE program and the student engineers. The students were truly engaged. They took the time to ask questions about our work to make sure the product they were creating would be user-friendly and adaptable for each individual. Their prototype will allow us to assist individuals with their time management” – Jen Sanderson, Operations Manager, Employment Services, Living Resources.

All 21 projects will be on display and open to the public at the Annual CREATE Symposium to be held on Wednesday, April 10 in the Empire State Plaza Concourse, Meeting Room 6, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.