Enabling Technologies

Enabling or Assistive Technologies are engineering innovations that help persons with disabilities. Persons with disabilities may need help caring for children, caring for themselves, physical therapy or doing their work.

Developing products for clients helps Detroit Mercy's engineering students prepare for careers in innovative fields and these types of projects fill a gap in needs. Since disability types and levels vary from person to person, there is usually a need for a unique solution for each project client.

“This becomes more than a project. The students work with a client and assess their needs. By the end of the semester, students don’t see this as a project but providing a quality product for a person in need which will enhance their mobility. This is just one example of the entrepreneurial mindset embedded in our teaching, it is aimed at making a difference in the workplace and in society."

—Darrell Kleinke, professor of Mechanical Engineering

Project examples that have changed lives for the better

Wheelchair Lift

A team of students in the Mechanical Engineering Senior Design class, in collaboration with Detroit Mercy Nursing students—designed, developed and produced a wheelchair lift device for their client, Pam Williams.

Williams, who has lupus and scleroderma, is mobile with the help of her wheelchair, but it was difficult for her to take her wheelchair anywhere. The goal of the device was to automatically lift a wheelchair into the trunk of a sedan without sliding too far into the trunk or damaging the exterior of the car

Williams is thrilled with the final product. “This is fantastic,” she said with a big smile. “Now [Gage] is an engineer and is creating something that can help me.”

The entrepreneurial program is supported by principles from the Kern Entrepreneurial Engineering Network (KEEN). KEEN is a collaboration focused on elevating engineering education by incorporating core principles of entrepreneurial engineering.

The other members of the student team include Evan Gage, Martha Dunbar, Elliott Fernandes, Anthony Li and Daniel Modes.

Wheelchair Accessible Crib

Modifications to a Jenny-Lind style crib made it accessible to a caregiver using a wheelchair.

The project was carefully designed and built by a team of Detroit Mercy Engineering students and faculty. Care was taken to preserve the original geometry of the bed / rail system and to review the final product and instruct the users in proper use. A liability release waiver was signed by the recipient.

Williams family Family using wheelchair accessible crib designed by students
shows crib slide openshows crib swing open
(top left) Crib slides to half open; (top right) Crib swings from half to full open;

Device to help someone who is semi-quadriplegic build upper body strength

two team membersThis team designed and built a device for an individual who is semi-quadriplegic. The client has no lower body movement and uses a wheelchair. He has no movement in his fingers and his fingers are closed shut as in a fist. His request was for a device to help him build up upper body strength. The team designed a device so that the client can drive his wheelchair in position, lock down the wheels and perform his upper body exercises while sitting in the wheelchair. Exercise involves pressing down on two arms of the machine. This pressing motion is resisted by a pneumatic cylinder and the client would be working against the resistive force of the cylinder. The number, type and attachments of the cylinder can be altered to increase or decrease the resistance of the machine so that the client can adjust the load as needed.

Team BMP: Patrick Minjeur, Mark Fazi, Ben Wansten

Bionic Hand

team members workingThis group worked on a device for a client who has a paralyzed right arm. The client cannot use the right arm from wrist through to his fingers. In his job, he can use his left arm to perform tasks such as data entry and sorting etc., but needs to simultaneously hold onto paper, mail and other objects in his right hand. The device works as an attachment to a glove that can be worn by the client on his right arm. It features a pair of sheet metal jaws that work like a paperclip to hold onto any object that is placed between them, allowing the client  to hold things with his right hand while he is working with his left.

Team Bionic Solutions: Adam West, Ray Hannish, Matt Jones

Exercise equipment for client with multiple sclerosis

Team 1

MS1-team working.jpgThis team designed and built an exercise device for a client with multiple sclerosis. The client is wheelchair bound and must sit all day at work, leaving him sore at night. Physical therapy has helped but cannot be a permanent solution. The client needed a device that would allow him to replicate at home some of the helpful movements he does at physical therapy. The team designed and built a custom device that is flexible enough for the client to exercise his legs and hip joint as well as his arms and shoulder joints. Despite being built for a particular client, the device can be adjusted for individual needs. There is no such device in the market at the time of writing, and the team intended to file a provisional patent application for this device.

Team : Ray Gage, Katelyn McCutcheon, Jacob Bahrlaski, Andy Neidert

Team 2

team members workingThis team designed custom exercise equipment for a client who has multiple sclerosis. This client’s exercise needs involved moving his hip about a vertical axis. The team designed and built a machine where the client can use two stationery support arms and exercise his hip while sitting in a chair which could be moved by a cam like device as well as do similar exercises while standing. The seat height is adjustable so the user can raise or lower his position as needed.

Team: Jason Hynous, Danny Garcia, Henry Akinnibosun, Ali Dirul-Islam

S O U P Spoon Accelerate Michigan Innovation Competition