Engineering Design Students Make a Difference in First Quarter

Wednesday, December 04, 2019
Students presenting their designs

Engineering design students worked together this fall to create projects to help youths with special needs. The specially designed objects will be available through Reach Services, a community-based agency.

First-year engineering design students didn’t have to wait long to experience the thrill of working with an external client and creating products that will make a difference in others' lives.

Over the course of the first 10 weeks of college, five student teams developed a variety of specially designed projects to expand the motor and cognitive skills of children with special needs from low and moderate income families. The devices will someday be available at a lending library through Reach Services, a Terre Haute-based organization.

These projects were (with the names of students involved):

O-Lace: An art toy that develops fine motor skills by having the user insert laces through holes in several character cards. A sliding funnel helps the user correctly line up and place the pointed end of the lace with each hole. (Caleb Boutell, Jackson Costa, Abbi Leul and Kieya McClung-Ware)

Math Master: This incorporates a plastic grid and wooden blocks to aid in the development of fine motor and math skills in children living with dyscalculia, as well as other disabilities. (Sage Dooley, Matthew Supp and Steven Xia)

Grab-Bit: A toy designed to encourage children to pick it up and manipulate it, improving their fine motor skills in the process, with increasing levels of difficulty. (Vance Allen, Nathan Atkinson and Avery Zoss)

Character Curtain: This is an adaptation of the sensory metal bead curtain designed to encourage children with autism and other disabilities to have fun rearranging their favorite characters, such as Pikachu and Mickey Mouse. (Sophie Bear and Nobles Jones)

Rattle Race: A simple, handheld toy in which the player flicks his/her wrist to cause marbles on three tracks to continuously spin around, producing positive feedback through sights and sounds. (Marin Bishop and Jesus Capo)

While educational and therapeutic, each of the projects were created to captivate children's interest.

“If it wasn’t interactive and most importantly, fun, then the youths wouldn’t get the full benefits of our device,” says Atkinson about the Grab-Bit. “We had to think like a kid again.”

Creating the Math Master allowed Dooley to utilize her artistic skills by adding colors and designs that have youths enjoying the process of learning simple math principles.

“This project balances my interests in art and engineering,” she says. “It’s so pleasing to see that we all came together and created something for a real external client. Just think what we’re going to do as we learn new skills in the future.”

Costa, who wants to design educational products as a career, says, "This is what I want to do—and I've done it my freshman year."

His O-Lace project teammate, Leul, adds, "Helping people is my passion." And being able to do that now, so early in the college experience, "is meaningful for everyone."

This is the third consecutive year that first-year students have completed projects for Reach Services. Past projects have featured a Bigger, Better Battleship game, Lite-Brite Special Grip and Batman Utility Belt.

Professor Patsy Brakcin, director of the engineering design program, says Rose-Hulman students want to work together “to make the world better. They get so motivated and work so hard to make sure they can help a child with disabilities."

Jackie Wrin, an occupational therapist with Reach Services, described the relationship between the agency and Rose-Hulman as "an amazing collaboration." She says, "It is delightful to see the (students’) incredible minds, and what they come up with and create" that will help children.