Penn State Berks students build occupational therapy assistance devices in annual event

Students in the Penn State Berks mechanical engineering and occupational therapy programs collaborate each year to create devices to meet the needs of individuals with physical challenges as part of the Pfreimer Adaptive Equipment Project (PADEP). The students present their collaborative work at the end of the fall semester. Then one or two teams advance through the competition and work with senior business majors to refine their prototype concept through business analysis in the spring semester.

This year, five teams developed and designed the concept prototype for assistive devices, and two of those teams were selected to continue their work in the spring with business students.

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The project is an interdisciplinary one and has been in place for more than 15 years, with students collaborating across multiple degree programs.

The students were allotted a budget of $120 to create their prototypes, and projects were assessed by a team of faculty members.

Black Team presents Easy Trash

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Presented by Abby Ackley, Armin Almasi, Aubrie Bollinger, Michael Cotter, Jacki Fulford, and Josh Miller

The Black Team shared their idea for Easy Trash, a device with a large handle and adjustable heights that assists with weight distribution to make it easier to remove heavy trash bags from trashcans. The team theorized that their device would be helpful for users with arthritis or amputees, as well as anyone else who struggles to remove a trash bag from its can. The Black Team estimated their Easy Trash system would cost roughly $50 for consumers, making it an affordable solution to alternatives on the market.

Brown Team presents motorized adjustable shelving

Presented by Courtney Bolton, Jake English, Sam Eshleman, Patrick O’Donnell, and Karie Wagner

The Brown Team presented their proof of concept for motorized adjustable shelving, which they theorized would help users with muscular dystrophy and other mobility issues. Their prototype featured a motorized system that allows users to not only pull the shelving out of the cabinet but also lift it, the latter being a unique feature in the market. The team explained their devices could be retrofitted for existing cabinetry or could be custom-built, making the investment for consumers dependent upon their needs.

Red Team presents mobile bed frame

Presented by Daniel George, Megan Kenny, Jakob Kopf, Andrew Omelczenko, Olivia Sheridan, and Dominick Shortridge

The Red Team pitched a device that would assist healthcare workers to care for individuals who are confined to a bed and would help prevent bedsores in patients. The team explained that bedsores impact over 150,000 individuals each year. In their presentation, the team shared a motorized model prototype featuring removable side panels that would allow workers to move patients with the touch of a button. Due to the device’s size and material requirements, the Red Team’s prototype had to be built as a scaled-down model to depict proof of concept.

Orange Team presents EZ-Clip Collar

Presented by Chris Adams, Jake Danko, Ryan Light, Morgan Lusch, Nicollette Moratori, and Maddie Smith

The Orange Team’s prototype was for an EZ-Clip Collar, a pet collar that aims to help pet owners with grip issues. The team discovered through market research that their idea, though simple, did not exist in many iterations or designs. Their prototype featured a strong magnet with an easy latch that would allow individuals with arthritis and other grip issues to easily put on and take off their pet’s collar, without the pet breaking away from it. The prototype was inexpensive to draft, and they projected it would cost roughly $12 to produce, with the potential for manufacturing costs to be cheaper when mass-produced.

Yellow Team presents jar opener

Presented by Lillian Byrd, Caleb Hooper, Ethan Link, Pedro Rodriguez, and Kristina Valera

The final team to present was the Yellow Team, who presented a jar opener that would put less strain on users’ fingers and wrists and assist individuals with arthritis, carpal tunnel, and grip issues. Their prototype adjusted to any sized lid and any height jar and allowed users to break a jar’s vacuum seal using just one hand. The bottom was encased with a rubber material to prevent the device from sliding on counters. Through their market research, the team discovered that while similar devices exist, few offered the same adjustability at their proposed price point.

Spring selections for collaboration

At the conclusion of the fall semester, Pfreimer Adaptive Equipment Project faculty advisers nominated the Red Team’s mobile bed frame and the Orange Team’s EZ-Clip Collar to move forward with business analysis in the spring.

To determine which projects would be nominated, Jim Laurie, assistant teaching professor of business, surveyed the faculty and staff who attended the event, summarizing their input for the Pfreimer Adaptive Equipment Project faculty advisers. Armed with that data, faculty advisers Amir Barakati, associate teaching professor of mechanical engineering; David Kresse, associate teaching professor of occupational therapy; and Rungun Nathan, professor of engineering, evaluate the data to determine if the projects have the potential to go through a second iteration.

Now that the Red and Orange Teams have been selected to move forward, at least one occupational therapy and one engineering student from each team will need to continue in the spring as the business students take the lead.

For more than 15 years, Penn State Berks students have proposed countless ideas for devices to support individuals with a wide spectrum of abilities. To learn more about the Pfreimer Adaptive Equipment Project (PADEP) and its history, contact Rungun Nathan at rungun.nathan@psu.edu.

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