GT Students Explore Universal Design with the Wireless RERC and Virginia Tech

The GT Junior Industrial Design class (Spring Semester ID 3201) participated in a project with the Wireless RERC (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center) in the design of a universally designed (UD) wireless device.  The GT junior class has participated in this project for the last three years and this year was joined by sophomore ID students from Virginia Tech.  The instructors from GT were  Dr. Young Mi Choi and Wendell Wilson and the instructors from VT were Akshay Sharma and Mitzi Vernon.

Student teams were tasked with re-designing a mobile handset to meet the needs of a specific user persona.  There were a total of 4 personas, each with unique needs.  Design teams from each school had three weeks to research, design and test a concept for each persona (one team per persona).

With the overall goal being the development of UD solutions rather than assistive devices, each team focused on making their designs have universal appeal to the general population in addition to addressing the needs of the assigned persona.  Teams developed design solutions through initial research into the needs of their assigned persona, concept ideation and development using 2D sketches and 3D study models.  Students were encouraged to identify and contact individuals with needs/limitations common to those of their assigned persona in order to get direct design input and feedback on their ideas.  Selected design solutions were modeled both in a digital format and physical models to permit user evaluation and ergonomic assessment.

Models and posters of each team's final design were presented at the open house for AWARE home and CATEA on April 17 coordinated by Brian Jones who is Director of the Aware Home Research Initiative.  The designs were also presented at the Southeast District IDSA conference on April 20.  All of the students who participated in the project voted to select the designs that appeared to best meet the user's needs. 

The winners were:

  • Team Quad from Georgia Tech: Kevin Shin, Nahla Osman and Aimee Smith
  • Team Omni-Connect from Virginia Tech: Steven Gethard, Jason McIlhany, Emma Weaver, Ivana Zelov

The main project sponsor from the Wireless RERC, Jim Mueller stated, "I’m very encouraged at the insight and abilities of tomorrow’s designers, especially since I’ll soon be among the “Elizabeth and Stan” customers they’ll be designing for."  Elizabeth and Stan were one the names of one of the project's personas who represented older users with deteriorating vision, hearing and mobility.

Posters and presentation materials of the design teams' work will be on display at the Wireless RERC advisory board meeting on May 21-22.

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