LTU sophomores improve the lives of persons with disabilities through innovative products

SOUTHFIELD – Lawrence Technological University sophomore engineering students once again spent the fall semester designing products to help developmentally disabled people improve their lives.

Students worked with the Dearborn-based Services to Enhance Potential (STEP), which finds and manages job placements for the disabled, and ConnectUs, a Livonia-based nonprofit that provides quality programming for individuals with severe multiple disabilities.

The students are part of a course, EGE 2123, Entrepreneurial Engineering Design Studio, that is required in most LTU engineering programs. Students meet with the nonprofit agencies and their clients, witness, first-hand, the clients’ challenges, and design and build physical products to help solve those challenges.

“Creating a product for a real person – and in particular, a person with a disability – and seeing directly the impact that they can have on that person’s life, really resonates with the students,” said Heidi Morano, director of LTU’s Studio for Entrepreneurial Engineering Design (SEED), who teaches the course with Susan Henson, SEED project engineer. “We often have former students return to the studio to ask if their STEP client is still using their product. The empathy that the students develop for their customer really shows.”

This week, the students presented their products in open houses to LTU faculty, staff, and students, as well as working professionals in engineering and related fields. Those who attended cast votes to name first- and second-place teams in both sections of the EGE 2123 course.

Winners in the afternoon class that worked with STEP were:

  • First place, Ramp It Up, who produced a 3-D printed magnetized bracket to aid the production of roller assemblies used to transport cafeteria trays. Team members were Joe Daszcz of Allen Park, Chris Langston of Farmington Hills, Devin Morrison of Madison Heights, Maurice Rivers of Chicago, and Matthew Wenzel of Howell.
  • Second place, tie, Gasket Smashkit, who produced a board with cones affixed to it to help workers punch holes out of gaskets without damaging the gasket. Team members were Lauth Aljida of Novi, Dillon Tierney of Highland Township, and Meshal Alharbi of Kuwait.
  • Second place, tie, InspectTech, who designed a device to incorporate inspection into the manufacturing process of a component in automotive bumpers. Team members were Samantha Khon of Dearborn, Alyssa Downs of Southgate, and Miguel Sanchez Munoz of Spain.

Winners in the evening class that worked with ConnectUs were

  • First place, AMTF, a team that designed a table with jacks and actuators that raised and lowered to accommodate the height of a client’s wheelchair. Team members were Garrick Beaster of Romulus, Ethan Harrington of Shelby township, Aidan Nolan of Clarkston, and Joel Trend of South Lyon.
  • Second place, Ticket Masters, which designed and built a new ticket dispenser for ConnectUS. Team members were Emily Gandolfi of Falmouth, Tyler Gregory of Livonia, Matthew Luckow of Dearborn, and Matt Quigley of Rochester.

Lawrence Technological University,, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 15 percent of universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

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