The Enabling Technologies Laboratory (ETL) Student Design Program provides Wayne State University's undergraduate engineering students with the opportunity to design and create prototypes, custom designed devices, software and services to aid persons with disabilities. Students conduct their design activities in an environment that not only complements and integrates their previous academic experiences, but also naturally integrates research, education, and community service. The student design projects are coordinated with ETL research on the impact and effectiveness of technologies that enhance human performance, both physically and cognitively, with an emphasis on the needs of individuals with disabilities. Accessible and universal design principles are key elements in these research and design activities.
Based on discussions with ETL?s community clients, the major areas of need and concern deal with design to support work and vocational training and education. Two ETL clients are working on micro-enterprises focused on helping individuals with disabilities set up their own businesses. Micro-enterprise for individuals with disabilities is a new area of application for the ETL student design program. While this next period will primarily target work activities, such a focus will not preclude other application areas; however, because of the work and vocational concerns, most of the project ideas presented for this proposal fall within these areas.
Our community partners have presented a long list of projects. These projects include: sorting and packaging systems, switch accessible mechatronic devices, e.g., a press for custom paper making, and a heat sealing system; smart fixtures and workstations wherein sensors provide feedback for error-proofing, quality control, and prompting for assembly, sorting, and packaging jobs; and cognitive aids for individuals with cognitive disabilities. These cognitive aids will use RFID tag systems for commercial laundry sorting tasks, stocking and inventory control jobs, and manipulatives for pre-vocational training utilizing sequential tasks. The RFID tag systems and smart sensor systems will also make use of wireless communication technology to create supportive work environments for workers with cognitive disabilities, for example, an environment that will support a team of janitorial workers with cognitive disabilities at a community worksite. In addition to the research experience the ETL students receive, the ETL students provide a significant community service by delivering needed technology to people with disabilities while concurrently educating our community partners about the laws which mandate accessibility and the power of enabling and assistive technology to change people?s lives.