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Creation by UC Engineers Helps Create New Opportunities for the Disabled

Date: June 28, 2002
By: Dawn Fuller
Phone: (513) 556-1823
Photos by Lisa Ventre
Archive: General News

A rousing cheer erupted at a June 28 ribbon cutting at a small warehouse in Edgewood, Ky., as the Spork-O-Matic got its first public viewing. The cheers and applause came from the workers at New Perceptions, Inc., in celebration of a UC partnership that will lead to a wider variety of jobs and additional hiring for workers with developmental disabilities. Ribbon cutting at New Perceptions

New Perceptions, the non-profit company that provides jobs for the workers, was looking for a machine to handle a larger workload than the machines it presently had on site. The machine needed to package a small medical tool, called a spork.

Through a partnership with the UC Engineering Design Clinic, a team of three UC seniors, Jude Stepaniak, Billy Mulvihill and Mike Johnson, came up with a design as their senior capstone project in 2001. They recommended an Indiana company, Dial-X, to manufacture the machine, and graduated before the concept became a reality.

"I can't wait to see it," said team leader and UC Engineering alum Jude Stepaniak, as the group of guests was first led to the reception room. Stepaniak is now an engineer for Valco Cincinnati, a company that designs, manufactures and installs adhesive application systems. The Northwest High School graduate spent his UC co-op with Valco Cincinnati. As a current full-time employee, he was able to get some time off to come to New Perceptions to see the unveiling. Jude Stepaniak looks at the Spork-O-Matic

"For our senior project, we did a cost analysis and did the design ourselves and then recommended Dial-X as being the most beneficial for them. With our cost analysis, we looked into the benefits of having the machine and when it would pay for itself."

New Perceptions took the team's advice, manufactured the machine through Dial-X, and threw a celebration for employees at the unveiling. With the new machine taking fewer employees to package sporks, Bob Ryan, New Perceptions coordinator for adult services says, "We'll be able to create a greater variety of work for our clients and generate additional income to increase hiring for adults with disabilities."

After the ribbon cutting, the machine sprung into action for a live demonstration. The Spork-O-Matic has two shaker bins: one for the cap and one for the tiny sporks. The pieces are loaded onto a platform, where the cap is plunged into the spork, and then moved down a little conveyer belt and dumped in a basket.

"I think this shows how effective the design clinic is, as students become involved in real-world projects," says UC Professor Frank Gerner, head of the Department of Mechanical, Industrial and Nuclear Engineering.

"This is just another way engineers improve the quality of our lives," adds Elizabeth Seidman, associate director of the UC Engineering Design Clinic. "For New Perceptions, it means providing more jobs for their clients. For UC, this experience provided real hands-on engineering experience that helped a community."

All three members of the UC team are now enjoying successful careers as engineers, with Stepaniak and Mulvill working in Cincinnati and Mike Johnson in Connecticut. Stepaniak says they all still keep in touch.

More background on the machine.


 
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