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Creation by UC Engineers Helps Create New Opportunities for the Disabled

Date: June 26, 2002
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Archive: General News

A new machine designed through a partnership involving three students from the University of Cincinnati Engineering Design Clinic, New Perceptions, Inc. and Dial-X, will get its first public rollout at a special ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. Friday, June 28. The ceremony will take place at New Perceptions, Inc., One Sperti Drive in Edgewood, Ky. The creation of the Spork-O-Matic is expected to pave the way for new and more diverse jobs for people with developmental disabilities.

New Perceptions, Inc.

New Perceptions is a non-profit organization that operates an employment program on site, hiring the disabled to do jobs that are contracted through outside companies -- jobs such as assembly, bagging, packaging, labeling and inspecting. One assembly contract involves counting and packaging sporks -- not the plastic utensil we use for our coleslaw, but a similarly-shaped tool that is included in medical testing kits.

Bob Ryan, New Perceptions coordinator for adult services, says the organization packaged just over nine million of these sporks last year. With the old hand-operated machines, it would take about 50 workers to package 30,000 sporks in a typical workday. The new machine requires just three workers to supervise the assembly of the sporks, and the machine will be able to carry 25 percent of the assembly load or 8,000 in one workday.

Ryan says that New Perceptions first consulted with 11 teams of UC engineering students in the course, "Engineering Economy," taught by associate professor Ashraf Genaidy. "From those groups, we had to rate their presentations in terms of how well they fit the parameters we submitted for the machine development," explains Ryan. The top pick led to a partnership with the UC Engineering Design Clinic that started in January 2001. A team of three UC seniors: team leader Jude Stepaniak, Billy Mulvihill and Mike Johnson (under the guidance of faculty coach Ashraf Genaidy), had until June 2001 to design the machine at a minimal cost.

"The students were taking into consideration not only the kind of machine that will get the work done, but also what will increase production," says Elizabeth Seidman, associate director of the Engineering Design Clinic. "Furthermore, they had to design a machine to fit the needs of the disabled."

Ryan says the team worked with Dial-X, a Ft. Wayne, Ind. company that manufactured the machine that will be unveiled Friday. "With the Spork-O-Matic, we'll be able to create a greater variety of work for our clients and generate additional income to hire additional staff to serve additional people," Ryan says. "The entire project was meant to increase hiring for adults with disabilities and UC helped start the whole process."

Stepaniak and Mulvhill, along with Seidman and Ryan, will attend Friday's ribbon cutting. Stepaniak, Mulvihill and Johnson graduated from UC in 2001 and are all holding engineering jobs.

Now in its 14th year, the Engineering Design Clinic, a program in the Mechanical, Industrial and Nuclear Engineering Department, serves as the senior capstone project for UC engineering students. Seidman says those projects are a win-win situation for both the student and for Tristate businesses. "The students come up with real designs with the potential for implementation and area companies get the benefit of engineering expertise at a minimal cost," says Seidman.


 
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