Research Matters

Research Matters

Assistive Devices


Ken Fischer, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is leading his students in a capstone design/build project to provide Kansans living with disabilities custom-designed assistive devices, such as mobility or communication aids, to improve their quality of life.

Episode #116



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Transcript


Engineering students design and build free assistive devices for people living with disabilities. From the University of Kansas, this is Research Matters. I’m Brendan Lynch.

Thanks a National Science Foundation grant, Ken Fischer, associate professor of mechanical engineering, is leading his students in a capstone project to provide Kansans living with disabilities custom-designed assistive devices, such as mobility or communication aids, to improve their quality of life.

Fischer: Students spend a full academic year working on design and fabrication and testing of a prototype that’s somehow related to biomechanics. In many cases, it’s an assistive device for someone with a physical disability. The NSF provides us resources to do these projects without any cost to the beneficiary.”

Called the Biomechanical Rehabilitation Engineering Advancement in Kansas program, or BREAK, the effort will pair students with Kansans living with disabilities in order to customize devices to have maximum positive effect in the lives of the recipients.  

Fischer: The students learn to see the person with the disability as a person, and respect them where they’re at, and get experience dealing with somebody who may have different abilities than their own, but who nonetheless have aspirations to accomplish great things. I think that’s part of the sense of satisfaction that the students receive. They provide people with a tool they need to be more successful.

While the marketplace for assistive devices is constrained, Fischer said that some of the technology developed in the BREAK program could hold the potential for commercialization. Other designs may be offered to the public for free. 

Fischer: Some of these assistive devices may have commercial potential, many of them could be commercialized. We hope to take really good examples of technology and try to move them forward to help other people. One of the problems with assistive devices is that the market is rather small compared to the general population of the U.S. If there’s a really good design that could help people but isn’t commercializable, another option is to release that design to the public domain and allow other people to build the students’ design without cost.”

For more on assistive devices, log on to Research Matters dot KU dot edu. For the University of Kansas, I’m Brendan Lynch.

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Researchers create free assistive devices for people living with disabilities


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