Creating Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Experiences (cRE/ATe): Student Projects


The cRE/ATe Project is an experiential design education program which exposes undergraduate engineering students to Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology (RE/AT). This program leverages the extensive expertise in RE/AT of CATEA and the robust design education within the Schools of Mechanical, Electrical and Biomedical Engineering. The objective of the project is to build capacity by populating the field with engineers who have been exposed to disability and its impact on the design of mainstream products, services and goods. To meet this objective the aim of cRE/ATe is to define projects for senior-level engineering design courses in which a student design group will be teamed with a client with a disability and a client coordinator to solve a functional problem.

Student Projects

Ball Target System

Ball Target project

The 2009-2010 cRE/ATe students worked with an Adaptive Physical Education teacher to develop a target that offers visual and auditory feedback after a successful engagement. Sensors detect when a ball passes through the target and control the light and sound output. The system uses a MP3 chip to store music and sounds that are selected using a random number generator.

The cRE/ATe target was created specifically for an Adapted Physical Education teacher and his students. The target needed to be able to provide sufficient audio and visual feedback to stimulate the senses of his students of all ages while also being large enough to allow multiple functions for the teacher to use the target with the students. The target also needed a way to hang upright on a pull up bar, bleachers, or basketball hoop. However, because the teacher travels frequently by car from school to school, the target had to be lightweight and small enough, without sacrificing the size of the target, to carry and fit inside of his jeep. The target also needed to have power supply.

The cRE/ATe students designed a target with LED emitter/detector sensors and eventually used 31" IR distance sensors that were connected in circuit with IKEA Dioder Light Strips and an MP3 trigger. These IR triggers sensed when the IR beam was broken and activated a timer and a random number generator that switched on the lights and music for ten seconds. The frame was made out of 80/20 1010 T-slotted Aluminum Extrusions because it was light but sturdy. The dimension of the frame was 34" x 36" which was just large enough so that the 31” distance sensors only needed to be placed on one side of the target since the balls were larger than the 3" dead spot distance.

Factsheet for Ball Target project. (requires Adobe Acrobat reader)

Center-Mounted Footrest

center mounted footrest

Many models of power wheelchairs use a center-mounted footrest or footplate. Some wheelchair users must lift or swing away their footrests prior to transfer. These users need to rest their feet upon the ground during transfer. The traditional swing away footrests are attached in a manner that allows the occupant to reach a release and swing the footrest to the side. The center-mounted footrests do not have an accessible attachment and most power wheelchair users cannot reach forward and down to access the footplate. This project sought to design a solution to permit wheelchair users to independently lift a foot plate prior to transfer. The solution needed to be a retro-fit, in that it could be added to a wheelchair after prescription and delivery. It also needed to be compatible with different wheelchair models.

Baby Bottle Holder

Baby bottle holder

Mothers who have children with low facial muscle tone may have trouble bottle feeding. Because of the low muscle tone, these children cannot apply suction to a bottle to feed and mothers must use their thumb, forefinger, and sometimes their middle finger to adjust the baby's jaw so the correct suction can be applied for feeding. Holding the child and the child's face makes it difficult to hold the bottle and feed the baby. This project sought to design a product that could be manufactured at home to solve this problem.

Fact sheet for the Baby Bottle Holder

Modified Wiimote with External Buttons

Modified Wiimote

The Wii has become a popular video gaming system that is used for entertainment as well as physical therapy. A need has arisen for a modified Wiimote so that people with upper extremity disabilities are able to play and enjoy all the features of the Wii. These people suffer from disabilities ranging from fine motor skill problems to spasms, and all other ranges of inability to move in certain ways.