Last April, a team of Roger Williams University senior engineering and computer science majors joined forces with clients at the local James L. Maher Center to enter the AbilityOne Network Design Challenge 2012, a competition that encourages students to develop assistive technologies that empower people with developmental disabilities to overcome barriers to employment.
The Maher Center – a day program for individuals with disabilities and an NISH-affiliated nonprofit vocational center – is contracted to shred paper for outside companies. They pay their worker clients by the pound to shred paper using two industrial-sized shredders.
Inspired by Mary “Sunshine” – a client of the Maher Center who wanted to work shredding paper but whose physical limitations prevented her from doing so (she has severe arthritis and uses a wheelchair which makes it difficult to grab paper and reach the feed slot) – the team of RWU students set-out to develop a paper shredder model that would allow her to effectively use the machine. Working together, Gil Caspi ’13, Vivienne Clayton ’12, Jeffrey Cote ’12 and Steven Drabik ’12, developed a working prototype that used a new 3-step shredding cycle design exclusively to fit her needs.
Through the generation and analysis of possible solutions, the group was able to create a safe, low-cost workstation design replete with a paper dispenser, transport table and a pivoting tray that lifts the paper to the shredder.
The end result is the EasyShred, a modified paper-shredding system that increased Mary’s productivity from an average of 0 to about 9 sheets shredded per minute. They won accolades for the project, earning 3rd place for undergraduate research at the 2012 Northeast Regional Conference of the American Society for Engineering Education.
Check out the evolution of the EasyShred below:
You can also check out a photo album from the students' working with Mary on Flickr.