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Dayton Engineer

We Made the Cover of OhioENGINEER!

By Teri Stemley, School of Engineering

Congratulations to the faculty and students from the University of Dayton School of Engineering who made the cover of OhioENGINEER's 2022 year-end "Engineering Education" issue that features Ohio engineering schools. Mechanical engineering students Jordan Wilson (left) and Bridget Gerber (right) work with Kim Bigelow, Ph.D. (center), director of the Engineering Wellness through Biomechanics Lab to adapt toys for children with disabilities. The toys are then donated to children in need via the United Rehabilitation Services of Greater Dayton.

The article continues:

With nearly $2.5 million in funding, four faculty in the University of Dayton mechanical engineering department specializing in biomechanics are providing students at every level opportunities for experiential learning and research in posture, balance, neuro-muscular control, computational modeling and rehabilitation.

The School of Engineering’s new $1 million EMPOWER Lab is a shared teaching and research facility for students and faculty to access world-class equipment, including 3D motion cameras, wearable motion measurement sensors, a force-measuring treadmill, virtual reality systems, and a Caplex System, which provides a central platform to emulate wearable devices such as exoskeletons and prosthetics.

“This is something I just love, and I’m so proud of my students,” said Bigelow. “Jordan started in my lab as an undergrad and enjoyed the experience so much, she is now pursuing her M.S. degree — I can't wait to see what she does these next 2 years!”  

Wilson enjoyed working with Bigelow, and said, “she wants you to not only follow your passions, she wants you to succeed at them, and her resourcefulness instills this ability to make things happen — just like this adaptive toy project.”

As a high school student, Gerber attended the School of Engineering’s Explore Engineering Program and enjoyed the biomechanics hands-on activity led by Bigelow. She then attended the WISE (Women in Science and Engineering Integrated Learning-Living Community) overnight — two influential events in her decision to attend UD. “I met potential classmates and current WISE students at UD and experienced the friendly and encouraging atmosphere for engineers at Dayton,” said Gerber. Bigelow was elated when Gerber reconnected and inquired about biomechanics research. “I was eager to have her join the lab as a first-semester, first-year student, and she has already done fantastic things!” said Bigelow.

Efforts were ramped up last fall to fulfill a Christmas wish list. Lab students, Maddie Blincoe, Aliya Zimmerman and Jordan Wilson, led the efforts to adapt and deliver 27 toys to URS clients — fire trucks that light up, have sirens, and drive; crazy art spinners for older children; Fisher Price animals that teach ABCs and 123s, etc. “We adapted the circuitry of the toys and made an easy to push button to activate the lights and music, so children who lack the fine motor skills to switch on and engage with the toy as sold, could simply push this button using their elbow or chin,” said Bigelow. One adaptive button cost $50-$60, but with the enterprising and problem-solving mindset of our engineering students, they produced their own for only $5 – a fraction of the cost!  

“One of the best parts of my job is working with my research students (typically 10-15 each semester and almost all undergrads). Jordan, Bridget and all of my lab students are simply amazing — they always go above and beyond,” said Bigelow.

According to Wilson, “What excites me most about this project is the ability to incentivize kids with disabilities to build strength and mobility in therapeutic ways that they will enjoy and knowing that the work we put into adapting these toys will put huge smiles on the faces of the kids at Christmas — this warms my heart.”

Gerber is very excited for the opportunity “to be exposed to real-world engineering applications and make a hands-on impact in the community, especially as a first-year student. It is very rewarding to adapt these toys from start to finish and work through problems during the process.” This is engineering that matters.

Read more about the partnership between the School of Engineering EMPOWER Lab and United Rehabilitation Services featured in the blog, Hands-On Learning, by UD President Eric Spina.

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