The mission of the Program for Assistive Technologies for Underprivileged (PATU) is to allow students to practice engineering skills while they develop strong communication and teamwork skills, gain global perspective, and learn social responsibility through projects for persons with disabilities that otherwise could not afford assistance.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Adjustable work bench

It's been a while since I posted, but that doesn't mean we haven't been working! Last summer two engineering students, Danielle Mendez and Kenner Ahrendsen, worked on an adjustable work bench for workers with disabilities at the Handicapped Development Center (HDC) here in Davenport. The Handicap Resource Center (a unit within HDC) uses hands on jobs provided through partnerships with local companies to foster independence for participants. One obstacle for the center is providing adequate and comfortable work space for those with Cerebral Palsy (CP) or mental retardation (MR). CP patients often require the use of wheelchairs, which is not conducive to the current work table height.

Danielle and Kenner spent 6 weeks during the summer working on a solution for the participants at HDC. They spent numerous hours collecting data, investigating options, and constructing their design. They were guided through the process in weekly meetings with myself, Chris Donnelly, and upperclassman acting as a mentor, and Amy Key, an engineer working at MidAmerican Energy who provided a more experienced perspective on the project. As part of the STEM Summer Research Institute, Danielle and Kenner also participated in several educational sessions (such as how to apply to graduate school or a career) and presented their project in a poster session to the public.

Their final design utilized a hydraulic lifting mechanism to lift the table to a height between 19 and 36 inches. A simple foot pump is used to raise the table, and a handle is squeezed to lower it. The table has locking wheels, making it able to be moved around the center. The table will offer MR and CP workers a comfortable, easy to use workspace that supports people with disabilities throughout the community.