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Assistive Technology Wins MIE 415 Poster Contest

On December 5, the MIE 415 Senior Capstone Design course held its end-of-semester poster contest, and the winning team of students is creating an invention to improve the quality of life for children with Pediatric Multiple Synostosis Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder characterized by multiple bone fusions involving the face, limbs, and middle ear. The winning team was assisted by a portion of the recent $125,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to enable “Integrative Capstone Design Experiences for Engineering and Nursing Students,” awarded earlier this year to Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Professors Frank Sup and Sundar Krishnamurty, who teach the MIE 415 course. Professor Cynthia Jacelon of the UMass College of Nursing also collaborated on the grant proposal. The second- and third-place teams also featured posters explaining two new inventions: a Hardwood Floor Nail Gun Stand; and a Yankee Candle Wax Floor Tank Redesign.

The NSF grant focuses on developing assistive technology to help disabled individuals maintain their quality of life. This award creates a new collaborative opportunity for undergraduate mechanical engineering and nursing students to partner in their senior capstone courses by creating interdisciplinary projects.

The winning team is made up of MIE seniors Brian Cormier, Andrew Friedlieb, Catherine Paquin, and Kyle Morrell, and School of Nursing student Emily Gardner. That team is working for a client, Ryan Wade, an independent and charismatic boy with Pediatric Multiple Synostosis Syndrome. Ryan is unable to perform many activities of daily life without the assistance of special devices or caregivers. The team is developing an extremely light, durable, flexible, and adaptable actuating arm which allows Ryan independently to adjust his glasses, wipe his mouth with a napkin, feed himself crackers, and potentially carry out other tasks that were previously not possible for the boy without assistance from caregivers.

The team working on a Hardwood Floor Nail Gun Stand is Conor O’Neil, Brandon MacAleese, Harnek Singh, and Mike Legendre. The issue is that hardwood floor installation is an incredibly slow and strenuous task, especially because the heavy nail gun must be constantly lifted to each floorboard and carefully aligned. The team is designing a stand that attaches to the nail gun, eliminates the need for continuous lifting, and increases the speed of installation.

The Yankee Candle team is composed of Alan Baryudin, Jeremy Thayer, Eric Trulson, and Aaron Misiph. The problem being addressed is that Yankee Candle’s electrically heated wax-melting floor tanks, used in candle manufacturing, are all sized and designed differently, with recurring problems from incomplete wax drainage and weld failure. The objective of the team is to provide Yankee Candle with standardized designs for 300-pound, 600-pound, and 1200-pound floor tanks that drain wax completely and are structurally sound.

A message from a Yankee Candle representative praised the work done on its Wax Floor Tank Design and expressed the kind of benefits that sponsors of MIE 415 projects can receive. “As I said last week at the poster presentation, nice work and congratulations. Management here at Yankee is excited about the next stage of this project. As I said on Thursday night, we are committed to constructing a prototype of your design here in-house. After the first of the year, we will begin working on construction timelines and if any of you are interested, we would like to invite you to the plant as we put together the prototype. As more details become available, I will keep all of you informed. Thank you for all your hard work and again, great job.”

The sponsors for this year’s MIE 415 projects are the U.S. Army Research, Development, and Engineering Command, Ken’s Foods, Yankee Candle, W8, BETE Fog, and Wyss Institute of Harvard University. (December 2013)