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2019

Vocal Switch

Enabling Engineering

The Need:

Students with cerebral palsy at the Carter School have trouble integrating with their computer software.  We need to create a device that can, without using fine motor skills, integrate with the existing hardware and software used for virtual learning at the school. We are developing an audio-controlled switch—as opposed to a mechanical switch—to help these students interact with virtual learning software.

The Solution:

Previous prototypes were able to use the vibrations of a vocal cord as inputs with limited success. However, because this prototype must be tested in real time with various users, the method that was being used for the vibrations was far too complicated. We have begun to implement a microphone to capture the audio. For this iteration, when the audio remains at a constant tone for a specified length of time, the switch will be activated by a Don Johnston switch controller.

Lite-Brite V2

Enabling Engineering

The Need:

The device will provide an alternative to the Phillips lite aid. The product should allow the children to practice auditory, textual, and color recognition, as well as motor control.

The Solution:

The group has successfully built a prototype for the second version, the next phase of the project that they are in the middle of will focus on transferring that prototype into a deliverable product. This is justified because while the prototype that was built was functional, its design was not intuitive to use and was not robust. The deliverable device will build on the lessons they learned from user testing, and package the device in an attractive, durable and easy to use manner.

SSEC Programming Class

Enabling Engineering

The Need:

We work with the SSEC (South Shore Education Collaborative) to provide classes that go over basic programming skills. Computer science students write a fun and interesting curriculum and serve as the teachers for the class. Through the class we hope to encourage students to become more involved in programming and use the skills they learn to expand their interests.

The Solution:

A 5-7 week programming curriculum that covers the basic skills necessary for students to become acquainted with and comfortable in beginner-level Python.  Focused on interactive activities and deliverables such as games and other small projects. As often as possible, we will integrate activities that involve movement so that students can get a break from sitting at computers for an entire hour.  By the end of the course, students should have a basic understanding of programming in Python, as well as a final game/product built!


Go Baby Go-Ryan

Enabling Engineering

The Need:

Go Baby Go Ryan is a project dedicated to giving a child more freedom. James has very limited motor controls and a visual impairment on his right side. This project focuses on re-engineering a drivable toy car will allow him the independence that he wants. He will be able to drive around, and overcome all of his limitations. 
 

The Solution:

Our solution is going to be completed in two phases. The first being implementing a lap bar into the design so that James has a seat that fits properly. The second phase will be adding the new turning mechanism to the vehicle. James, as mentioned before, has a visual impairment which only allows vision primarily on his left side. He is unable to sit or stand without assistance, which requires us to implement a more restrictive seat in order for the car to the functional. He loves the outdoors and the car is designed to be driven in his driveway.

Sensory Tray -Skyla

Enabling Engineering

The Need:

This project's goal was to create an easily attachable and detachable sensory tray with the ability to interchange various sensory items. The tray, by nature, had to be secure, as it was attached to a wheelchair. Preferably, this tray had to have the option to be adapted for various wheelchair systems to enable other users to use the tray.

The Solution:

Our main priority was to find a way to attach the tray securely to Skyla's wheelchair. Our eventual system was a series of buckles and cables that ran from the top of the tray and under Skyla's table. This attachment system (pictured above) was chosen as it was the most discreet way to hold the tray in place, and make space on top of the tray to position all of the objects.


Objects on the tray were designed with different textures in mind and some may would cause a small sound to be played if interacted with. The objects on the sensory tray were also designed to be something that would keep Skyla engaged so she would not resort to undesired behaviors. For example, one object on the tray was to be designed to keep her from pulling on her G-tube (feeding tube), to mimic a similar feel, but will not cause harm if played with. We also planned to have an object that made noises when pulled on, using a badge holder and a guiro. When the badge holder was pulled, the guiro would rotate and create a sound, and when let go, the badge holder would snap back into place. 

Recumbent Bike

Enabling Engineering

The Need:
A 22-year-old boy from Wisconsin has a rare disability called Trifunctional Protein Deficiency. Trifunctional Protein Deficiency (TFP) much resembles the aliments of Cerebral Palsy, causing difficulties walking. TFP affects the signals the brains send, causing the extremities to suffer the most.  He typically has a small walking distance however runs in the risk of falling. Creating a device that would increase his mobility, independence and safety would be the upmost beneficial. Moreover, creating a bike that allows him to use his arms rather than his legs would provide the most advantage as his upper body is stronger than his lower. 

The Solution:
The current group has designed a bike that is able to balance on multiple wheels. The bike operates using both arms and legs with a mechanism to help with inclines. The bike should motion and parking brakes, while have a easily accessible seating and a proper steering mechanism.  Currently the teams is working on CAD models for the Ackerman Steering for the front wheel and the dimensions of the entire trike that fit the boys size. The team will also incorporate their previously designed brake cables to the handle bars.

X-Max Game Controller

Enabling Engineering

The Need:

The client has cerebral palsy which inhibits his motor skills to the point where it is impossible for him to play video games, specifically Xbox, using traditional control systems. Our controller aims to enable him to play X-Box with minimal external assistance.

The Solution:

Our current solution is an array of mechanical switches suspended around Max’s head which allow him to control 4 of the 10 buttons on a traditional Xbox controller. The switches are covered with large foam pads to enable comfortable head operation. The most recent update includes an inline companion controller so that an occupational therapist or  friend can play the with Max and aid him as he learns to use the device. We have currently also been working on myoelectric controls and updating it into the prototype.

Ponytail Helper

Enabling Engineering

The Need:

The client has muscular dystrophy, which makes it difficult for her to put her hair up or change her hairstyle on her own. The goal of the project is to design a mechanism to allow her to put her hair in a ponytail despite her limited range of motion.  The ideal end-product would be functional within her range of motion, and would also be safe and reusable. It would also be easily removed independently.  In the past, she has had an aide assisting her at home, but she would like a mobile device that allows her to independently change her hairstyle.

The Solution:

The previous groups used a mechanical release system that deployed the hair tie around the hair once it was gathered. The tube that would gather the hair was attached to a sliding track system controlled by motors. The plan was to have the whole system controlled by switches to minimize the user’s mechanical input. After re-examining the design at the end of the fall semester and over winter break, we have come to the conclusion that it will not fit the needs of the client in an effective way. Therefore, this semester we created a new design in a different direction that will help her put her hair up. Our new design currently consists of the following features:

  • Creating a clamp that could be placed around the hair and holding the shape of the ponytail while the user puts a hair tie on

  • Clamp would lock to keep the hair shape and would release on demand

  • Easy to use hair tie (possibly a bead design like the One-Handed Ponytail)

Pedaling Music

Enabling Engineering

The Need

The William E. Carter School is a school for students with intensive disabilities. They employ restorators, bike-like exercise devices, to help students develop dexterity and control. The school wants a restorator to be modified so that it provides an incentive to continue pedaling, ideally in the form of music the students enjoy. This would help engage students in restorator exercises and improve their dexterity and mobility.

The Solution

A rotary encoder attached to the restorator’s axis will measure the rotation of the pedals. An Arduino reading the encoder signal will make audio control decisions, and use a Bluetooth module to send an HID code (keypress) to the paired device. The device’s operating system knows how to interpret an audio control key (pause, play, etc.), and thus should pause or play music without any special software being installed on it. In this way, the firmware can be implemented with minimal work and no customization of the playing device need occur.

IPad Mount

Enabling Engineering

The Need

One of the two end users is a high school student who tends to throw his iPad or remove clamps to seek attention. He is about to graduate and needs an iPad mount for adult care. The second end user also tends to remove clamps from her iPad. In addition, she uses a wheelchair and works most efficiently when the iPad is close to her body and horizontal on a surface. Thus, the iPad mount needs to be able to prevent an iPad from being removed by the end users, be easily removable by caretakers and supervisors, and be able to attach onto any surface object whether it be a table or a wheelchair.

The Solution

The design of the project would have a few simple components: a case, a suction cup, and buckles. The case would cover the iPad itself and not only does it have to be durable, it also should not diminish the usability of the iPad or make it too bulky. A suction cup will be attached to the case with a locking mechanism using buckles on the cup’s handles. The buckle-lock component will be obscured to prevent the end users from figuring out how to undo the buckles, and only caretakers and supervisors would be told how to undo the buckles. The suction cup serves as a better alternative to clamps due its greater hold and its ability to attach the iPad on any surface without worrying about adjusting to dimensions. The buckle-lock and the suction cup are going to be 3D printed, after which we will find a case that can cover the iPad and prevent removal. The completed design will prevent the users from removing their iPads and ultimately improve productivity.

Interactive Disability Website

Enabling Engineering

The Need

People with disabilities lack a transitional resource that assists them for life after schooling. The time after a person with disabilities turns 22 is referred to as ‘a cliff’ because federal and state support systems (ie schools) are no longer available after this age. Families and teachers of people with disabilities need a system to help them plan and track goals to ensure their child is ready for this sudden loss of support. Whether this is going to college, getting a job, or going into permanent care, a guiding resource is needed to help prepare for the child’s future. While resources do exist for this, they can be overwhelming to comb through with a lot of irrelevant information.

The Solution

A website that tailors support to the needs of the user. This website allows families to set a goal for their child and receive suggested milestones to help prepare for their future. It also allows teachers to access this information, if permitted, to allow clarity and alignment of goals. The core feature of the website is a checklist and timeline feature that provide clear and succinct tasks to build towards the child’s future. This feature depends heavily on personalized data chosen during a user survey to gather details about the child and their goals.

Gait Trainer Harness

Enabling Engineering

The Need

Gait Harnesses are used in the physical therapy treatment of patients who have limited walking capabilities. They are designed to bear the weight of patients of all ages and sizes so that the patient can comfortably practice using their legs. However, while gait harnesses are effective in supporting the patient’s weight, the harnesses themselves are a major source of patient discomfort, particularly around the groin and underarm region.  Therefore, there’s a defined need in creating a gait harness that is not only adaptable to patient’s ages and body sizes but is also comfortable to facilitate the gait training procedure for patients.

The Solution

Our solution involves taking the weight off from the groin area by having several contact points elsewhere. By having several connections from the patient to the harness system, their discomfort is minimized and dispersed. The harness consists of a vest and thigh straps which are worn over the patient’s clothes. The vest will attach to a frame which is sturdy enough to bear the patient’s weight. The thigh straps will also connect to the vest and serve as the extra contact points to reduce the load on the vest. The vest is lined with a highly frictional coating on the interior to assist in bearing the weight of the patient and to prevent the vest from sliding up the patient.

Additional Information/Press

https://news.northeastern.edu/2019/04/24/northeastern-students-design-and-build-devices-to-help-improve-the-lives-of-individuals-with-disabilities/

Amputee Workout

Enabling Engineering

The Need

For amputees the lack of exercise or inactivity puts one at more of a risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, both of which contribute to vascular disease. If those who lost a limb due to vascular disease are not able to workout and improve their vascular health, they are at risk of losing another limb.Working out and participating in activities increases muscle growth, and helps improve not only physical health but mental health as well. For some, it acts as a coping mechanism after a traumatic event, and for others, the need to get back into a routine is what drives them to go to the gym. Whatever the case, working out is an important need for people who have experienced limb loss.

The Solution

This project aims to improve the mental and physical health of a trans-radial amputee by enabling them to exercise in the gym. One solution to this issue is creating a terminal attachment to an existing prosthetic that allows the user to participate in pushing and pulling exercise, also referred to as the Prosthetic Workout Device. After brainstorming, designing, creating multiple iterations, and testing, the group came to a prototype that satisfied the design requirements of use with the chest press, shoulder press, low row, lat pull-down machines, as well as body weight exercises. The design includes a tapered curve that allows for different diameter machine grips, compatibility with the quick wrist disconnect system, and a strap that allows for pushing and pulling motions. The completed design will allow the user to engage in physical exercise in a gym setting, while being comfortable and safe. 

Blind Culture Artifacts

Enabling Engineering

The Need

Various textual artifacts held at the Perkins School for the Blind archives are largely inaccessible to the public and have no current means of reproduction. These books for the blind pre-date braille and feature raised letters and shapes intended to be read through touch, similarly to how braille is read today. To make these artifacts more accessible, 3D printed copies of the text were asked to be created that simulate the experience of the original documents.

The Solution

These 3D printed replicas should be tactilely legible, utilizing the iterative nature of additive manufacturing to optimize user experience. The original documents were scanned and further modified using Fusion 360 to adjust scaling, trim excess material, and reduce/optimize the tessellation on the models. The team then further extruded the 3D scanned files to created multiple prototypes. These 3D printed prototypes encapsulated a range of resolutions, scales, and text heights before an optimal combination of features was found. Further exporation was done on how to smooth the 3D prints. The exhibition of the final project was featured at Northeastern University, Harvard University, Boston Public Library, and Perkins School for the Blind.

Additional Information/Press

https://news.northeastern.edu/2019/02/14/weve-lost-something-important-in-the-age-of-screens-3d-printers-can-bring-it-back/

Cup for the Blind

Enabling Engineering

The Need

When pouring beverages, individuals who are blind or visually impaired may place their finger inside the rim of a cup in order to determine when the cup is full. This method can be injurious if the liquid is hot or and isn’t ideal if the drink is being served to others. While there are devices that emit sound as the liquid level rises, the batteries must be replaced frequently and the sound is ineffective if the individual has any hearing impairments. The user needs a small, easy to use device without batteries that can aid in pouring beverages by notifying them when the liquid in the mug is at a certain height.

The Solution

Previously, another group of students 3D printed a mug with a small horizontal lever that would move in response to the buoyant force created by the rising liquid level. However, the movement of the lever was too slight for the user to notice. Our group decided to modify this design by increasing the length of the lever such that the movement is easier for the user to feel with their hands. In addition, a magnet embedded in the lever will hold it in place once the buoyant force reaches a specific value. Finally, instead of 3D printing the entire mug, we will only 3D print the device itself and add a cinching screw that can be adjusted such that the device can be placed on almost any vessel regardless of height or width.

Braille Block

Enabling Engineering

The Need

People with visual impairments who are just beginning to learn how to read braille need a simple and enjoyable way to practice the tactile experience of learning braille. Using these interactive braille blocks, users can create words by attaching the braille blocks together.

The Solution

The project team has designed a braille block that is easy to use, comfortable to hold, and can connect to other braille blocks. All iterations of the braille blocks were 3D printed, while the final version will use injection molding. The braille block offers the following features: pegs that allow blocks to be snapped into place, modular design to connect multiple blocks with each other, smooth and sleek design for a comfortable holding experience, and a cost effective enough to manufacture in bulk.

Adaptive Guitar

Enabling Engineering

The Need:

The client has limited use of the left side of his body, but wishes to play the acoustic guitar. We have been tasked with creating an apparatus that allows the one-handed usage of an acoustic guitar. The design would be able to press chords and allow the client to strum at the same time with his right hand.

The Solution:

Rather than creating an apparatus that strums and holds down the chords, our new approach involves making an apparatus that has a foot pedal, so the client is free to hold the chords down with his hands. The new structure includes making an attachment (photo included above) that hold the pick and can move up and down the guitar. It will be attached to a motor controlled by a foot pedal. Although this will not allow for individual strings to be plucked, it allows for chords to be played easily. In the future, we hope to explore ways for both individual strings and chords to be played simultaneously.

Additional Information/Press

https://news.northeastern.edu/2019/04/24/northeastern-students-design-and-build-devices-to-help-improve-the-lives-of-individuals-with-disabilities/