In STEM 2, groups of 3 to 4 students were were tasked with designing an assistive technology device to address the need of a client. We go through the engineering process of making a product. The structure of the experience was modeled after a workplace, complete with interviews and job posts. Through STEM 2, we not only gain valuable experience working in a professional setting, but we also get a chance to give back to the community. In this project, I worked with Shuling Lin, Sumanth Sura, and Emily Wang to design a device that detects when a wearer is falling and inflates an airbag to cushion their fall.
We decided to focus on engineering a device to help reduce the impact of a fall on senior fall-risk individuals. Our client was Sevita, an organization dedicated to helping people live independent lives. Our correspondant, Christine Cerquiera mentioned that a hip fracture poses a serious challenge to a senior. Our examination of the literature also indicated a need for an assistive device that could cushion a user's fall.
We considered three main designs when we were brainstorming. These were the dual airbag design, mono-airbag design, and the air backpack. The mono-airbag design would be the simplest to implement, as there would only need to be one component releasing air. However, this device would inflate slowly and also cause uneven inflation. The main benefit of the air backpack is that it shifts the weight of the device to the back and allows for larger components to be incorporated to the device while maintaining comfort for the user. However, we were able to find components light enough for most people to carry on their waist comfortably. Our final device we proceeded with was most similar to the dual airbag design.
The final product was capable of opening a valve in response to the detection of a fall. We were also able to make a device that could be easily worn around the hip. However, working with pressurized air was more difficult than we had expected. The tube juncture between the air canister and the valve came apart under the high pressure contained. Future work would include finding a more reliable way of using the valve.
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