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College of Engineering and Applied Science Awarded Assistive Technology Grant

September 9, 2010

The National Science Foundation recently awarded a grant of $124,855, to the University of Wyoming, College of Engineering and Applied Science (CEAS) to fund the project entitled, "Undergraduate Design Projects to Aid Persons with Disabilities."

In collaboration with the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND), CEAS will work with engineering students interested in assistive technology from all disciplines enrolled in senior design classes. Interested students will create assistive technology devices to assist individuals with disabilities in Wyoming and the surrounding region. The projects will directly contribute to the quality of life for people with disabilities, with special emphasis on independent living technologies.

The grant is a five-year renewal of the current initiative which recently expired, under the authority of Steven F. Barrett, Ph.D., P.E., CEAS associate dean for academic programs.

The project name, "Accessible Wyoming," encourages students to focus on devices that assist individuals with disabilities explore Wyoming and other frontier states. However, the projects are not limited to that theme.

While Barrett maintains a list of potential projects, he is accepting need-based project ideas from individuals in Wyoming and surrounding states. If a project is accepted, a senior design student will work on the prototype for a year and the individual will receive the assistive technology device for free, once approved by instructors. Students will be working on assistive technology to aide with all types of disabilities and needs.

"We encourage our students to make and maintain contact with the individual or family while they are working on the project," said Barrett. "There is no need to worry if a project is too big or too small and it is completely free of charge."

picThree students have already started their assistive technology projects. Senior students Jennifer Catchpole, computer engineering and Jim Follum, electrical engineering, are working on an alarm clock to assist individuals with hearing impairments.

"The clock will look like a normal alarm clock with two plugs in the back. A lamp will plug into the back and turn on an hour before the alarm will go off," said Follum. "The lamp starts dimly and grows brighter to mimic the sun." The clock will also include a vibrating wristband component.

Senior electrical engineering student, Anthony Michaelis is working on a color detection system to help individuals with color blindness. Michaelis, who is colorblind himself, explained, "You shine the green, blue, and red lights onto an object, and the device measures how much light is reflected back." At that point, a computer reads the results and identifies the color of the object.


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