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TOM:UCI 2017

TOM: UCI, Challenges and Solutions

Challenge: Retractable Umbrella for Wheelchairs

Unfortunately, although there have been a lot of technological advancements in our time, there seems to be no solution or devices specifically for those in wheelchairs to complete simple obstacles. Bhumit Shah is 35 year-old need-knower born with cerebral palsy, which is a lifelong neurological disorder that impairs mobility so in his unique case, he must use a wheelchair. Since he must operate a wheelchair with one arm, that only leaves another free to carry objects. The challenge was to create a universal umbrella device that will be able to accompany and accommodate wheelchair users.  This umbrella device should be easily retractable and deflatable, therefore Bhumit can motor his wheelchair without have to hold an umbrella as well.

Solution: Team “Chairway to Heaven” created an umbrella extension for Bhumit’s wheelchair that was able to extend to its full length or close to a collapsable unit. Utilizing a magnetic attachment on his wheelchair, the spherical umbrella hood could stay secured and cover Bhumit entirely while it rains. In addition to this lightweight and ergonomical invention, it could be removed at any time for the sunny days in California and reattached with ease.


Challenge: Manual Zipper

In 2007, our need-knower Kelly Lai suffered from a stroke after an aneurysm surgery. The stroke left her hemiparesis which means she lost all sensation and feeling on her left side. As a 51 year-old mother of two, Kelly has now been put into an unexpected situation that is more difficult than imagined. Not only did her two children have to look after her but her whole life became one challenge after another. For the TOM engineers, the challenge was to create a device that would help Kelly zip her jackets using only her right arm. Likewise, unable to easily maneuver, Kelly has difficulty picking herself up when she falls once a month. The second device that our engineers are hoping to create would help pick herself up without any assistance.

Solution: The team created 2 solutions for our need-knower Kelly Lai to help her with daily activities. First, they created a short, tri-pod device that could aid Kelly in picking herself up when she falls. Created with the user in mind, this unique device had a rubber grip customized for Kelly’s palm and engineered to a specific angle that provided support for her right arm. The team also designed a modified, double-sided clip that would attach onto her jackets and aid Kelly in zipping up her coats using just one arm. Although this clip may appear simple, it worked remarkably when tested by Kelly and will save her a lot of time in the future.


Challenge: Laundry and Oven Helper

Our need-knower, Elizabeth Campbell is 24 years old, and was born with Achondroplasia which is the most common form of skeletal dwarfism. In America, there are 1 in 40,000 cases of dwarfism a year. She is 3’10” and has arms and legs disproportionately shorter than her torso and body which is makes it difficult for her to access objects anything beyond her arm expansion. The challenge for our engineers is to create a device that aids Elizabeth when she is loading, and unloading the laundry and oven as they are out of her reach. When utilizing the top-loading washing machine, she cannot grab the items at the bottom of the barrel. In addition, Elizabeth has trouble reaching into the hot oven and pulling out heavy dishes, therefore she is forced to balance herself from the side of the oven at awkward angles. While trying to avoid falling, burning herself and causing any damages to her surroundings, cooking has proven to be a difficult task for Elizabeth.

Solution: To help our friend Elizabeth, the team engineered two devices to fit her needs. The team first designed an extended clamper that hooks onto fishnet-like bags that would hold her clothing in the washing machine. The process would be quite simple: she would place her clothing in these fishnet type bags, place them in the washing machine and when they are complete, scoop out the bags using the clamp that hooks onto the strings of the bag easily. Secondly, the team designed a prototype that would aid Elizabeth when utilizing a hot oven. They created a rollable table that would sit in front of her oven and she could slide her hot objects onto the table, allow it to cool, and avoid burning herself entirely. This device could also be stored away easily due to the rollable wheels and collapsible design.


Challenge: Kinnari, is a 40 year old woman who suffers from an inability to apply her compression socks. Many patients like Kinnari, have fused ankles, sensitive wounds, pain thus unable to fully extend the foot to use a device called a “donning aid”. A donning aid has proven to be inefficient for overweight patients as they are unable to reach their feet and pull the sock up to their knee. The challenge for our team is to create an easier method for users to easily apply this sock on a daily basis. The intended design is to create a more flexible device that is able to expand and elongate when necessary and with ease.

Solution: Team “We Sock” improved an existing, common device called the donning aid-- that had 3 main limitations that prevented users with a high BMI from using it. These limitations of the traditional design included that heavier users cannot bend over complete to grab fixated handles, therefore the team created an expandable and adjustable handle so the user will not have to bend over. Secondly, the original donning aid had a fixed, metal frame, therefore it cannot expand the opening of the sock efficiently. The team wanted to maximize the diameter of the compression sock at every point possible so that it can suit every leg size. The new device is able to exert more force on the sock, therefore it can open the diameter larger and mold itself to the user. The third limitation is that users with a fused ankle have limited ankle flexibility therefore making it difficult for them to point their toes and put it in the sock; the final product has 2 flexible, donning pillars that are able to yield to any width for the sock and adjust to the user accordingly.


Challenge: The unique challenge for our final team was to create a medical device that will allow people with a knee disability to kneel without applying pressure to the patella, rather diverting that weight to the shins. Our need-knower who is also our maker, Yori Neumark wanted to engineer a product that will fit his needs. Yori is a 64 year old, Informational Technology professional that is required to spend a majority of his time bending down onto his knee to fix equipment  on the floor. He also participates in many activities such as paddle boarding that made it difficult to pick himself up without aid or further damaging his kneecaps. This versatile device will be a solution that can be applicable to any profession or occupation who spends excessive time utilizing their knees.

Solution: The team, “Knee-vater”, created a knee attachment for those with chronic knee sensitivity. With cushioned padding for the shins and an angled surface for maximum productivity, this device can be strapped on utilizing back buckles and provide support for those who kneel often. This product is engineered to reduce pressure on the knees and place more emphasis on the shins which are stronger. Furthermore, the lightweight padding and wooden bottom allows people to mobilize with ease while working.

Earlier Event: April 28
TOM:Northwestern University 2017
Later Event: June 2
TOM:Porto 2017