University of Rochester

University, Students Cited for Development of Device for Disabled

April 29, 2003

The University of Rochester's Department of Biomedical Engineering and a team of students have received an award in the 2002 NISH (National Industries for the Severely Handicapped) Workplace Technology Scholarship Program.

As part of the department's senior design course, students created a prototype to solve a biomedical engineering challenge that was entered in the competition. One group developed an "Operator Controlled Storable Desk," designed for a Rochester resident who needed a desk to use with his power wheelchair but had limited use of his hands. By pushing a button, he was able to deploy the desk when he needed it, or to return it to its storage position on the side of his chair.

The competition's winning entries reflected strong academic application of technology as well as other factors, such as cost and ease of use, critical for people with disabilities. The desk designed by Rochester students earned a third-place award.

The Department of Biomedical Engineering received a $1,000 grant for its sponsorship of the student group that entered the NISH Technology Scholarship program. The team of students involved in the project-Scott Hanford, Johny Lopez, Kadie Simon, and Charles Welliver, who all graduated in May last year-share a $1,000 scholarship. Their teachers for the course last spring were Jack Mottley, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Amy Lerner, assistant professor of biomedical engineering.

The Workplace Technology Scholarship Program was developed to encourage students to design creative technological solutions to barriers that prevent people with severe disabilities from entering or advancing in the workplace.