Leveraging rehabilitation needs into freshman engineering design projects

Bruce Ankenman*, James Colgate, Phillip Jacob, Roth Elliot, Stacy Benjamin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Over the last two years, Northwestern's freshman design course, Engineering Design and Communication (EDC), has partnered with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago to provide interesting, useful, and challenging projects for freshman engineers. The goal of the partnership was twofold: 1) To develop innovative products to help rehabilitation patients to accomplish everyday tasks such as tying shoes, reading books, cutting meat with a knife, playing video games, and operating an exercise machine. 2) To have a stable and well supported source of interesting, educational, and challenging projects for 100 student teams per year. This paper will discuss the strengths, weaknesses, and lessons learned over the two years of the partnership. Having students work with rehabilitation professionals and patients has led to many rewarding experiences for all involved. Many projects have been very successful, with a few being patented and licensed to companies for potential manufacture and distribution. There have also been challenges: too much or too little contact with clients and users, and burn-out for some clients with multiple projects. We have made many adjustments to the system including holding mass information sessions on campus where students have access to the project clients, users, and other stakeholders. One key aspect of the partnership is funding provided by the National Institutes for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR) that helps to offset the time commitment necessary for rehabilitation professionals to work with students and help them to understand and interact with rehabilitation patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalASEE Annual Conference and Exposition, Conference Proceedings
StatePublished - 2006
Event113th Annual ASEE Conference and Exposition, 2006 - Chicago, IL, United States
Duration: Jun 18 2006Jun 21 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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