The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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Final exam gives more than just grade

What do an automatically deployable/retractable umbrella, an all-terrain wheelchair and a final exam have in common? They are all part of mechanical engineering students’ senior design projects which involve designing devices for the disabled.

The final exam begins with students evaluating customer need and designing an idea that could be practical to the life of a disabled person.

Funds to develop the designs are provided by the United Service Association for Health Care Foundation and the Kent Waldrep National Paralysis Foundation.

“It’s been really rewarding to see these kids respond [and see] the creativity they’ve shown and the sensitivity they’ve given to the disabled community,” Kent Waldrep of the foundation said.

Students interact with the disabled while researching their design projects. They must go through a process including analyses, design specifications, budgets and recommendations.

Dr. Paul Packman, professor of mechanical engineering and director of the projects program, said, “The purpose of the course is to teach product realization . . . but what we’ve discovered is we get an added bonus. Students get very sensitized to how engineering can affect the well-being of people.”

The ideas have now become working devices to be used by the disabled in their everyday lives. Students will show the five designs at a media briefing on Friday at 10 a.m. in Promenade B in Hughes-Trigg.

Disabled designs

  • The Off-road Para-Chair: a retrofitted ATV with a chair capable of holding a disabled person securely in rough terrain
  • The UnderCover Canopy: an automatically deployable and retractable rain cover attached to a wheelchair
  • The Access-a-pack: a pack attached to a wheelchair that does not require the user to twist around for access
  • The DollieLift: assists the elderly and disabled in lifting themselves up after a fall
  • The Easy-Trans: a transfer aid to assist disabled drivers into their seat

  • More to Discover