Students and faculty from the University of North Georgia (UNG) Department of Physical Therapy recently hosted a weeklong conference with industrial design students from the Georgia Institute of Technology to build assistive technology for patients with physical disabilities.
During the conference—named “creating rehab engineering and assistance technology experiences,” or cREATe, per a release from UNG—UNG’s Department of Physical Therapy enlisted the aid of Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial Design to help students in UNG’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program to envision and manufacture the custom-made assistive devices, according to Dr Alison Alhadeff, assistant professor of physical therapy at UNG and co-founder of cREATe.
“This unique project opens up new realms of experience for students from both institutions while providing an invaluable service to community members,” says Dr Teresa Conner-Kerr, dean of UNG’s College of Health Sciences & Professions, in the release.
“This project also provides an important opportunity for students to have an interprofessional experience as well as a means to provide unique, effective devices to patients for free,” Alhadeff states in the release.
The release explains that student teams were presented with clients with physical needs that ranged from combating scoliosis to controlling a powered wheelchair with the head.
During the week, the teams experimented with different materials and structures and made adjustments with feedback from the clients and their families. At week’s end, the teams presented their final designs, the release notes.
The Georgia Tech students then traveled back to their home campus to build the prototypes, which according to the release will then be delivered to the clients.
“When you combine the clinical knowledge and skills of physical therapy students with the intuition, intellect, and design skills of industrial design students, it creates a great end-product that’s going to be highly satisfying for our clients and will improve their quality of life,” says Stephen Clack, a third-year student in the DPT program, in the release.
“This experience has allowed me to work one-on-one with patients and families in our community, and has given me the ability to use my knowledge and training to critically think and problem-solve in real-life patient scenarios,” states Laura Kight, also a third-year student in the DPT program, in the release.
Scott Prombo, a Georgia Tech student majoring in biomedical engineering and industrial design, says in the release that engineers want to enhance their resume and designers want to enhance their portfolio, so this project—with 3 weeks of intensive work and a deliverable at the end—will impress prospective employers.
“This class is very different from other design/build classes; this is really a class about assistive technology intervention, meaning the students develop a close relationship with their client,” says cREATe co-founder Dr Steven Sprigle, a professor who teaches design and disability design in Georgia Tech’s School of Industrial Design, in the release.
“Because of that, I hope our students gain a fuller understanding of the functional differences we all have. No matter what career they pursue or who they work for, that understanding will benefit them and all of us,” Sprigle explains in the release.
[Source: University of North Georgia]