Scholars in Ertekin’s IRISE program offer engineering design ideas for wheelchair users
The unique outreach program co-directed by MechSE Associate Professor Elif Ertekin – the IRISE Engineering Entrepreneurship Scholars Program – capped off its latest semester of programming with a symposium on May 7 at NCSA, where they presented their final designs and business plans.
The approximately 30 scholars who participated in the program during the spring semester – high school students who are part of the AVID program at Centennial High School in Champaign – were challenged with designing solutions that met a variety of problems faced by University of Illinois wheelchair basketball athletes and other wheelchair users. The teams’ goal was to develop prototypes that would improve the athletes’ performance.
IRISE (Illinois partnership for Respecting the Identities of Students in Engineering) teamed up the high school students with graduate students from the College of Engineering and Gies College of Business.
Last year, student teams showcased the prototypes they engineered over the course of a semester to improve performance for wheelchair basketball athletes. They used materials science, coding systems, 3D printer technology, and physics to build these prototypes.
This year, the same student groups worked in four simulated companies to further their prototypes, bringing them to the design stage and developing a business plan.
“The work done by our students is impressive and we’re excited to share it with the community,” said Lindsay Aikman, an English teacher and the AVID and Social Justice Instructor at Centennial High School. “We’re grateful for this partnership. It has long-lasting implications to the AVID class of 2020, including up to $10,000 in scholarship funds available for AVID students to attend engineering summer camps.”
The teams’ prototypes included athletic wear with thermoregulatory paint to aid in body temperature regulatory issues; a sensor that attaches to an athlete’s wheelchair to detect potentially catastrophic damage to the chair; a wheelchair modification that enables athletes to stretch fully horizontally from their chair; and the use of virtual reality to simulate activities such as swimming with dolphins and mountain climbing.
The IRISE program was born out of a desire to build meaningful, long-lasting, equal partnerships between university researchers, local schools, and community organizations. It is co-sponsored by MechSE, the College of Engineering, Ertekin’s 2016 National Science Foundation CAREER grant, and the Center for Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems. This semester’s efforts were carried out by the IRISE team, including MechSE education coordinator Joe Muskin, as well as engineering and business lecturer Joe Bradley, University High School’s DoMonique Arnold, and IRISE co-director Sharlene Denos.
“We brought the students here today to stand on this stage and present their engineering design ideas and business plans,” said Ertekin, addressing the AVID students in the auditorium. “We did this because we want to send a clear message: This platform, this stage, this university space is as much yours as it is ours. You belong here, and in fact, we need you here. We need your minds, your creativity, and your talent.”
Watch the video from WAND17 here.