PI: Peixoto, Nathalia L. and Ikonomidou, Vasiliki Proposal Number: 1132496
This GARDE:EQuaLS proposes two senior design projects per year to be developed at George Mason University by Electrical Engineering or Bioengineering students over the course of five years. The objective of this proposal is to introduce engineering students to, and develop best practices for, user-centered design in a multidisciplinary environment. The objectives of the senior design projects revolve around enhancing the quality of life of students with physical disabilities (SwD) who are enrolled in George Mason University and are registered with the Office of Disabilities Services. Two benefits we reap from this project are to engage our engineering students and to raise their awareness of the needs their fellow students have. On the other hand, SwD may become interested in engineering, as they will take part in all phases of the design process. Examples of projects we propose include a talking color reader for clothes, a second generation voice controlled wheelchair, and a self-aware positioning cane.
Intellectual Merit "Friends and equals: enhancing the quality of life of your peer": this is the inspiration for our senior engineering projects. The year-long senior design experience provides the opportunity for a group of students to focus on one need of one SwD (the user), to address that need along with the user, to propose engineering solutions, to design one or two of those solutions in detail, and to manufacture them. Students face user-centered design, a challenge in engineering education, and at the same time approach SwDs as a friend and peer, not as someone remote to them. Stakeholders (supervisors, administrative representatives and interested family members) will be briefed on the major steps of the design and assessments will be gathered from all parties to provide feedback and support the students in their project. Formative assessment will be used to develop best practices in approaching teaching usercentered design to engineering student teams. During the second semester the prototypes are tested and adjustments made. The final product is delivered before the end of the semester so user data can be acquired. Some of the projects will lead to patent disclosures, but all of them will lead to life-long contributions to the two sides: to the designers and to the users.
Broader Impact "Fascinating" is the first word we hear when describing how engineering helps society. The appeal of designing cool gadgets that transform one's life captivates children and adults. We will continue our engagement with the community and expand already successful dissemination initiatives: (1) a fun-gineering badge designed to entice girl scouts; (2) TV and radio interviews; (3) presentations during "engineering week" (February), during "career day" (throughout the school year) to high schools and elementary schools, and during the Assistive Technology Initiative Fair held yearly at GMU. These initiatives have already been initiated by the PIs. Here we propose to engage the senior design students in presentations to the community through one or more of those programs. The feeling of accomplishment when showing a child what it means to do engineering is unmatched: we strongly believe this training will enhance students' learning, their perspective on society, and their participation in community outreach.