New workspace enables provost to ‘get vertical’

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A. Sue Weisler

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Jeremy Haefner enjoys using a device designed by RIT industrial design students that allows him to stand while working.

Are you sitting down as you read this? New research shows that sitting for most of the day can not only cause aches and pains, it could very well be more harmful to your health. In fact, one Popular Science article proclaims “sitting is the new smoking.”

When Jeremy Haefner, RIT’s provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, felt that his back was getting tired sitting behind his office desk inside Eastman Hall, he decided to do something about it.

“I mentioned in a meeting with Lorraine Justice (dean of the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences) that I had always wanted something that would allow me to both sit and stand while I worked,” Haefner said. “She knew right where to send me.”

The provost approached the industrial design program at CIAS about having students design and fabricate an adjustable height workstation—a computer stand that would allow him to work while seated or standing.

“I jumped at the chance to work with students on this project,” said Kim Sherman, a senior lecturer in the industrial design
program. “Most classroom industrial design projects are conceptual in nature, so I saw this as a great opportunity to present students with a design problem that required them to address function, aesthetics, fabrication and ergonomics in a real-world application.”

Two of those students, Maritza Garcia,
who is minoring in mechanical engineering and packaging science, and Paula Garcia (no
relation) had expressed interest in being more involved in human factors—also known as ergonomics—after graduation.

“I never had the opportunity to work on anything this heavily involving human
factors,” said Maritza Garcia, from El Paso, Texas. “It also provided a great opportunity
to work on a project for my portfolio.”

The device’s mount is on a gas spring
counterbalance that allows for easy repositioning. Measurements were taken of the provost and his current workstation to make sure both the sitting and standing positions were ergonomically correct. A customized keyboard tray also was added.

Once the students completed the initial design and human factors mockup, another industrial design major, Nick Kelemen from Takoma Park, Md., joined the team to work with vendors and material suppliers to
fabricate the workstation. 

Upon completion of the design, all three students met with Rob James of Framing Tech, an aluminum extrusion structure
fabricating company. The support provided by James, also an industrial design major who graduated from RIT in 2008, and his company “really made the project possible,” Sherman noted. Additional CNC (a computer-controlled cutting machine) help from Minnesota-based furniture manufacturer Loll Designs proved essential to the project’s completion. 

Haefner said the device has been “a delight to use” since it was installed early this year. 

“I’ve been mostly using it in standup mode. The president (Bill Destler) is jealous,” Haefner joked. “It’s been getting a lot of nice comments, and I had a lot of fun working with our students on it.”

Maritza Garcia said she received a thank-you card from the provost and plans to use the experience post-graduation “to help
improve the human experience with the world” for others as well.

“Real-world projects such as this are
critical to a student’s educational experience,” Sherman said. “Students are frequently
surprised by the amount of additional work required to move a project from concept to reality. This type of project provides an authentic learning experience that really allows them to apply what is learned in the classroom.”