UDM program provides Nursing and Engineering students a chance to help people with disabilities

April 14, 2023
Three assisted technology devices worked on by University of Detroit Mercy Engineering and Nursing students. From left: a wheelchair storage device for Holly; a custom shower chair for Pete; and a device that allows Scott to transition from his wheelchair to an RV bed.

University of Detroit Mercy Engineering and Nursing students engaged in a year-long multidisciplinary, collaborative patient-centered project titled “Faces on Design” designed to improve the quality of life for people with physical disabilities.

Student groups presented their life-changing assisted technology devices in the College of Engineering & Science to their clients and public on Monday, April 24.

This multidisciplinary program pairs seniors from UDM’s College of Engineering & Science and higher-level Nursing students from the College of Health Professions’ McAuley School of Nursing to improve the quality of life for people with physical disabilities by designing unique assistive devices that resolve a need.

“Faces on Design” is a two-semester course that offers students the opportunity to work with people who have physical disabilities and fully understand the problems they experience with daily functions due to their disability. Each student group collaborates with the client for a full academic year and works to identify an obstacle they can help the client overcome by creating a custom design of an assistive device to improve the life of the person or their family.
The second half of the course involves bringing these devices to life through the construction of a prototype. The prototypes undergo testing and modifications based on client input and student expertise to ensure each device fits the client’s specific needs and is safe to use.

"This program takes everything we've learned throughout our time at Detroit Mercy and culminates it for good. In speaking with our client, all of us came to the conclusion that he needed a device to help him get from his wheelchair into the bed in his RV," said Justin Petouhoff, a senior Mechanical Engineering student who will graduate this May. “Not only will this device represent all the skills that we've learned, but it will be something that all of us can be proud of. This is really an opportunity to grow not only as an engineer and a student but also as a person."

This year-long collaboration allows Nursing students to implement everything they have learned from pharmacology to community health to assist the team in creating the device.  The multidisciplinary class closes with a celebratory design presentation event at the end of each school year.

The current student team designs are noted below according to the first name of each client served during this project.

Hope was born with spina bifida, a condition that limits movement in her lower extremities and torso. Students on this team are designing a wheelchair storage device that will allow Hope to store items and access them independently. The initial design consists of a basket and slider assembly so Hope can move the stored items from the back to the side of her wheelchair for easy accessibility.

Pete has multiple sclerosis (MS), a condition that causes muscle weakness, increased fatigue and episodes of dizziness. Students on this team are designing a custom shower chair for Pete to use in his bathtub so that he can get in and out of the shower safely. This device, which consists of a swivel plate, sliding mechanism and brake system, will ensure Pete’s safety as his condition progresses.

Scott sustained a C5-C6 spinal cord injury after being involved in an automobile accident in 2007. Due to his injury, he has limited mobility in his hands and has no feeling below his chest. Students on this team are designing a device that allows Scott to transition from his wheelchair to his RV bed while camping. This device modifies and improves their current lift system, providing Scott and his wife a safer and more efficient alternative.

To view previous presentation of assistive technology devices, please click on the following:

Media Coverage

WXYZ/Channel 7Detroit Mercy nursing, engineering students create devices for physically disabled
Six people stand and help a recipient, Hope, sitting in her wheelchair, with a Faces on Design design.
People stand and sit and talk to one another inside of the High Bay in the College of Engineering.
Four students present their project to people sitting in front of them inside of the High Bay of the College of Engineering.