ENGINEERING NEWS

Segal Design Expo Showcases Innovative Projects

The event took place in the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center on December 1-2

Julia Savich presents Paladin, a PVC frame that attaches to wheelchairs to make it easier to load onto airplanes.Julia Savich presents Paladin, a PVC frame that attaches to wheelchairs to make it easier to load onto airplanes.
Sebastian Garcia, a senior studying design and computer science, shares his design portfolio at the Design Expo.Sebastian Garcia, a senior studying design and computer science, shares his design portfolio at the Design Expo.
First-year student teams present their projects at the DTC Project Fair.First-year student teams present their projects at the DTC Project Fair.
EDI students present their design projects at the Design Expo’s Design Innovation Open House.EDI students present their design projects at the Design Expo’s Design Innovation Open House.

What would it take to get you to drink more water? Colin Brown believes the answer involves lights and sounds.

Brown and his team in the MS in Engineering Design Innovation (EDI) program developed a new way to remind and encourage people to hydrate. Their solution, Hydra, is a water bottle that illuminates bright yellow to signal to users when it is time to drink more water.

If users wait too long to drink, the color changes to green, and mechatronics housed within the bottle cause it to rock back and forth. Once users take a drink, sensors recognize that water has been consumed and turn the lights off.

Hydra was developed in DSGN 45-21: Designing Product Interactions, an experimental course within the EDI program that bridges engineering design and perceptual psychology.

“We wanted to enhance an object that we all use every day,” Brown said. “We settled on a water bottle because of its connections to health and because our design wouldn’t require anything extra from the user in order to use it.”

Hydra was one of the projects that was showcased at the fall Design Expo and Design Innovation Open House. Held on Friday, December 1 in the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, the annual Segal Design Institute event featured project prototypes and portfolios from several Segal courses and programs, including Segal Design Certificate, Manufacturing and Design Engineering, and Design for America.

Another project at the Open House sought to make air travel easier for people who use wheelchairs. Currently, to fit a wheelchair into a plane’s cargo hold before a flight, airport personnel must turn the chair on its side and lift it from the tarmac, which can be cumbersome due to the chair’s weight. Once the chair is lifted in, it is packed among other larger pieces of luggage. Throughout the whole process, exposed components of the wheelchair, such as armrests and wheels, are often damaged.

Working with ShirleyRyan Ability Lab and non-profit Open Doors Organization on a human-centered design solution, EDI student Julia Savich created Paladin, a PVC frame that attaches to the side of a wheelchair prior to being loaded into the cargo hold. The built-in handles make it easier for airport personnel to tip and load wheelchairs onto the plane without damaging them.

During the project’s iteration phase, Savich felt challenged to design a solution outside of her comfort zone.

“I am used to prototyping at a much smaller scale,” said Savich, who developed Paladin as part of her EDI thesis project. “To develop a full-sized prototype to fit a working wheelchair, I needed to conduct a lot of design research, from observing at airports to traveling with friends who use wheelchairs.”

Other projects displayed at the Open House included:

  • A standardized set of procedures to assist students returning to class after suffering a concussion (Design for America)
  • A prototype “waffle seat” made of interlocking sheets of thick paperboard (Segal Design Certificate)
  • A pair of twin-tip skis built specifically for female skiers (Segal Design Certificate)
  • A design-based solution to optimize a healthcare innovation services firm website (Segal Design Certificate)

On Saturday, December 2, more than 60 first-year student teams enrolled in the Design Thinking and Communication (DTC) course shared their design solutions with project clients as part of the Design Expo’s DTC Project Fair. Clients included Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, Kids in Danger, and Lincoln Park Zoo.