A group of Triad High School students recently partnered with Challenge Unlimited, a non-profit social enterprise that provides employment opportunities to individuals with significant disabilities, in order to compete in the 2017 SourceAmerica Design Challenge. The annual competition involves building and customizing assistive technology designed to improve the work environments of individuals with disabilities.
During the project, the team met several times with one of Challenge Unlimited’s clients, Vincent, in order to understand the difficulties of his job and develop a solution. Vincent is a young man living with cerebral palsy, whose job at Challenge Unlimited is to assemble parts in a bracket assembly line. Vincent was having difficulty with properly putting the bracket pieces together, which was causing him frustration. By interviewing Vincent and observing his work, the team determined that a customized Bracket Assembly Assistance Apparatus would help accommodate his needs while increasing his productivity.
Under the supervision of engineering teacher, Andy Brendal, the students used creative engineering and innovative computer work to design the Bracket Assembly Assistance Apparatus. After creating a simple and straight-forward apparatus with a 3D printer, a prototype was given to Vincent to test out. The apparatus was a success, allowing Vincent to reduce his average assembly time from 116 seconds per bracket to 41 seconds per bracket. His supervisors note that it has increased his productivity on the bracket assembly line by 181%.
The students also designed and made a signal light for Vincent to be able to communicate when he has a question or needs something from a supervisor. The two devices have significantly increased Vincent’s independence on the job, while maximizing his productivity and lowering his stress and anxiety. Improved process on Challenge Unlimited’s bracket assembly line has also been gained along with production increases.
Vincent is very happy with the tools that the Triad High School team has provided him. When asked for his thoughts on the apparatus, he stated, “I like it a lot. It’s much easier for me. Sometimes the [brackets] slide off the block when I try and slide the screw in. With this [apparatus], it’s not a problem because they won’t slide off. I thank you.”
Challenge Unlimited and the Triad High School engineering team recently received notification that they were chosen as a SourceAmerica Design Challenge semi-finalist. The next step will be to find out whether the team has been chosen as one of the five high school team finalists. As a finalist, the Triad High School team would be invited to present in Washington D.C. in front of a judging panel and an audience. The three-day event also includes training sessions and congressional visits on Capitol Hill.
Challenge Unlimited is extremely proud of the Triad High School engineering team, their innovation, initiatives, accomplishments, and for making a difference for people with disabilities.