IdeaLab@RIT sparks innovative solutions for individuals with disabilities

Student teams devise some workable concepts that will be further developed in RIT’s ‘IdeaMake’

Follow Marcia Morphy on Twitter
Follow RITNEWS on Twitter

A. Sue Weisler

Several teams of RIT students worked on problem-solving solutions for several local agencies serving individuals with disabilities as part of the IdeaLab project.

The Access Technology IdeaLab@RIT is a brainstorming marathon—run on sheer adrenalin. And the most recent one held the last weekend of April was no exception.

Several teams of Rochester Institute of Technology students and their coaches had a common goal—to work on problem-solving solutions for several local agencies serving individuals with disabilities.

Here’s what they came up with:

  • Transfer board slide that makes it easier to move people with disabilities to and from the seat of a vehicle they are using for transportation
  • An adjustable-secured arm device to help translate hand movements of students in wheelchairs/standers to control and manipulate contents on computer screens
  • Video game for the blind and visually impaired featuring an underground maze/obstacles/puzzle solving capability that implements high quality audio engineering to create an immersive experience
  • Simplified, user-friendly version of Facebook designed for people with disabilities to share their lives with friends and family
  • A digital companion/game that helps people with disabilities to develop better hygienic routines with encouragement, helpful reminders and progress tracking

“It was an eye-opening experience for students to focus on the unique problems faced by Heritage Christian Services, the Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired and Al Sigl Community of Agencies—including Mary Cariola Children’s Center and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society,” said Sandra Turner, adjunct professor in RIT’s Saunders College of Business and the College of Imaging Arts and Sciences.

Turner is the coordinator of IdeaLab, a problem solving, design, technology and marketing program at RIT’s Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

The IdeaLab@RIT began as a successful pilot program in April 2013—when students worked on solutions to solve medical-related problems faced by Rochester General Health System. According to Richard DeMartino, the Albert J. Simone Endowed Chair for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and director of the Simone Center, several of the past student entrepreneurial projects have advanced into real solutions and services.

“This time we are excited to work in partnership with local agencies who help countless individuals in our community,” said DeMartino. “They offered our students the unique opportunity to focus on real-life challenges that can make a difference in the lives of children and adults with special needs.”

Turner explained the event is a collaborative multidisciplinary effort within all of the RIT colleges—mechanical engineering, gaming, psychology, electrical engineering, industrial design and business—“which means the ideas flow rapidly and in all different kinds of creative directions.”

“The whole goal of IdeaLab is that it doesn’t end here but carries over to the following semester, which is then called IdeaMake,” explained Turner. “Part of the goal is research, so after the project is conceptualized and in prototype form, it can be tested for functionality to see if it’s a viable business—and that’s when the business plan, marketing and distribution channels come into play. The goal is to turn the student ideas into commercialized opportunities.”