A new two-semester capstone senior design course sequence in the area of assistive technology has been developed and integrated within the established curriculum of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) at the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Amherst. Entitled “Senior Design Projects to Aid the Disabled,” the capstone sequence includes close collaborations with the Lemelson Assistive Technology Development Center (LATDC) at Hampshire College and Adaptive Design Services (ADS) under the Massachusetts Department of Mental Retardation (DMR). The new design course allows students to work directly with collaborators and disabled clients to solve specific assistive technology design problems. Through these projects, students enhance and reinforce concepts learned in their engineering education. At the conclusion of the sequence, each student will have conceived, modeled, analyzed, and built a functional prototype of a mechanical and/or electromechanical device that satisfies the specific need of an individual client. Early results of merging engineering education and an area of social significance have been very positive. Students have welcomed both the hands-on and personal contribution aspects of their projects. In many cases, projects have led to research extensions, additional community connections, and for many students, inspiration to continue with graduate studies. The objective of this paper is to report on the motivation, design, and results of the capstone course sequence in assistive technology. Specific projects, past and current, are also highlighted.
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