‘Faces on Design’ project unveils assistive devices for patients

Yearlong multidisciplinary effort was work of UDM engineering, nursing students

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by Mary Chapman |

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A lineup of people is shown, some with physical disabilities.

A yearlong project by University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) engineering and nursing students has meant new customized assistive devices for people with physical conditions, including multiple sclerosis (MS).

The program pairs seniors from UDM’s College of Engineering & Science with nursing students from the College of Health Professions to craft tools that address specific needs for people with physical disabilities.

Students involved in the multidisciplinary and collaborative “Faces on Design” project recently got the chance to present the life-altering devices to the people the devices were designed for, as well as to the public.

As part of the project, students worked with clients to get their input toward designing and building a prototype of a customized assistive device that could help improve their life or a caregiver’s.

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The prototypes are then tested and modified based on the input from clients and then the students work to make sure the device they’ve built is safe to use and meet the person’s specific needs.

“This program takes everything we’ve learned throughout our time at Detroit Mercy and culminates it for good,” said Justin Petouhoff, a senior mechanical engineering student. “This is really an opportunity to grow not only as an engineer and a student, but also as a person.”

The two-semester project also lets nursing students harness everything they’ve learned, from pharmacology to community health, to assist the team in creating the device.

Among this year’s projects was a shower chair for an MS patient that will allow him to safely get in and out of the shower even as his disease progresses. The device consists of a swivel plate, sliding mechanism, and brake system, according to a UDM news release.

While MS doesn’t affect every person the same, the disorder is known to cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, pain, numbness and tingling, muscle weakness and movement problems, dizziness and vertigo, and issues with balance and vision.

There are a number of assistive devices to help MS patients with daily life functions such as walking and seeing more clearly. Other devices are being assessed in clinical studies.

The UDM students also designed a wheelchair storage device for a spina bifida patient with limited movement in her torso and lower extremities and a lift system for a man who sustained a spinal cord injury from an automobile accident.

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