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Student Team Wins Frey Prize for Innovation and Creativity

Jul 1, 2002
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EVANSTON, Ill. - Five June graduates of the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University have been awarded the Margaret and Muir Frey Memorial Prize for Innovation and Creativity for the design of a device that measures the distance a recovering stroke patient walks as part of at-home physical therapy.

Winning projects in the first Frey Prize competition were announced at the McCormick School's convocation. Esther Barnes, Robert Barz, Lawrence Chang, Brian Marks and Alison Sexton, who received bachelor of science degrees in biomedical engineering, won first place and will receive $12,000 in recognition of their innovative design project. Their faculty advisers will receive $5,000. Two other teams received second and third prizes.

The first-place team designed the remote monitoring device, which slips into socks worn by the patient, to measure acceleration and force. The collected information, including the number of steps taken by each foot, the running average of the stride length for each leg and the total distance traveled each day, then can be transmitted electronically to the patient's physical therapist for evaluation. Pedometers currently on the market are designed for people with a normal gait, not stroke patients who often walk unevenly or with the assistance of a cane or walker.

Donald N. Frey, professor of industrial engineering and management sciences at Northwestern and chief engineer of the 1964-1Ž2 Ford Mustang, established the annual prize this year to recognize the best senior capstone projects in the McCormick School and to underscore the importance of design in a McCormick education. The prize is named for Frey's parents, Margaret and Muir Frey. First, second and third place prizes will be awarded each year, with cash prizes totaling $35,000.

"The Frey Prize encourages seniors to integrate what they've learned in their four years at McCormick - creative design, analysis, communication and teamwork - to solve a real engineering problem," said John R. Birge, dean of the McCormick School. "Don Frey is a valued professor and friend to McCormick. We are thankful for this important support of our students and faculty."

In order to be considered for the Frey Prize, projects must be innovative, creative and interdisciplinary and be related to known problems or credible new products or processes. The problem for the winning team's project was provided by David A. Brown, assistant professor of physical therapy and human movement sciences at The Feinberg School of Medicine.

Creativity played a major role in Frey's industrial career, and in 1990 he received the National Medal of Technology for a lifetime of innovation, including his work on the Ford Mustang, the first high-volume integrated manufacturing of video cassettes for the Hollywood movie industry, and the first successful CD-ROM-based information system, designed initially for General Motors dealer service operations.

His career includes serving as a senior executive at Ford Motor Company (1950-1968), General Cable Company (1968-1971) and Bell & Howell Company (1971-1988). Frey joined the Northwestern faculty in 1988.

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