SCHENECTADY — College students from across the region recently showcased the fruits of their applied knowledge, working closely with local businesses to construct practical tools to be used in the workforce.
New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc. (NYSID) recently hosted its second CREATE Symposium to showcase prototypes of technology inventions designed to increase productivity and improve the livelihoods of New Yorkers with disabilities.
CREATE (Cultivating Resources for Employment with Assistive TEchnology) is an initiative sponsored by NYSID that gives university engineering students the opportunity to work closely with rehabilitation agencies to develop assistive technologies. These inventions enhance work opportunities for New Yorkers with disabilities and improve workflow, while providing applied engineering experience to students.
Teams comprised of students, professors and the member agencies they each collaborated with, showcased their inventions last month for all to see.
“It’s been a joy,” said Union College professor James Hedrick. “A lot of work, for me and the students. And, we’re not done yet. Because, we have a prototype for this term. But, the three of us have vowed to actually to get stuff installed and working in the greenhouse.”
Participating colleges, NYSID member agencies and CREATE inventions include:
Union College developed projects to help workers locally at Schenectady Arc’s Maple Ridge greenhouse.
Alfred State College students developed a machine that helps workers with disabilities roll an instruction package insert into a very tight roll for a specific contract. The technology should improve productivity, reduce material costs and alleviate workers’ stress.
Three teams from the City College of New York developed applications that assist people on the autism spectrum. They each worked in conjunction with Goodwill Industries. One team developed the curaWatch, an Android smartwatch app that helps individuals keep track of job requirements, chores and even exercise routines. The QRNavigation team developed a mobile app that helps individuals navigate indoor environments. The third team invented Green Jacket, a mobile app that helps individuals develop confidence, social skills and reduce stress when ordering meals in restaurants.
Manhattan College students developed an inventory system called Project Brightlife, which helps workers with developmental disabilities fulfill orders and replenish inventory accurately and efficiently, using a system of colored LED lights, run by customized software.
Currently, one in 68 children in the United States has been diagnosed with autism, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This figure has increased steadily in recent years and continues to rise.
The students are required to produce a prototype at the end of the school year, to the rehab agency they work with. The intent is to develop the tool beyond the academic project, and have it transition to a practical tool within the workforce.
“We’re trying to incubate these projects into commercial products,” said Ron Romano, NYSID president & CEO. “If we can get the individuals who it is developed for be a part of the manufacturing, somehow producing it for others to use and sell commercially. We’re trying to take it to the next step… because NYSID is about employment. Perhaps we can create jobs from this particular product.
That would be the three cherries on the slot machine.”
Established in 1975, NYSID is a registered non-profit corporation which creates employment opportunities for more than 7,000 New Yorkers with disabilities annually.
Hedrick has been a professor for Union College for 20 years, but this was his first experience with CREATE since it was established several years ago. He said he’s already approached management about getting involved next year.
“I was amazed,” said Hedrick. “It was just that whole feeling from everybody, that we were there to share with the world these wonderful things that we were working on. And, to me, it doesn’t get any better than that.”