Why Annual Giving Matters

“I had no idea how much of an impact this project would have. It is not just a device we designed for quadriplegic users; it is an intangible sense of freedom and an opportunity to experience the true joys of sailing like never before.” – MSD team member, Aleef Mahmud

Your gifts can turn physical challenges into championship possibilities!

Gifts that support student innovation projects and multidisciplinary design can help people with life-changing injuries. An adaptive sailing chair designed for Richard Ramos by four RIT engineering students made its competitive debut in summer 2012, turning Ramos’ physical challenges into championship possibilities.

Ramos grew up in Nantucket and sailed as a child. A spinal injury at 16 had kept him out of boats for 31 years, until he made a connection to a Multidisciplinary Design project team at RIT.

A previous model chair was used by members of the United States Disabled Sailing Team competing for a place at the 2004 Athens Paralympic Games. The designer, a member of the Rochester Yacht Club, came to RIT for redesign work. The challenge took the form of a senior-design project for Aleef Mahmud, Mitchel Rankie, Steve Gajewski and Christopher Sullivan, all fifth-year mechanical engineering majors at the time. Mahmud worked with Ramos to assess the design requirements that would become the basis for the custom-made, adaptive seating and driving system for a Sonar, a 23-foot Olympic and Paralympic-class sailboat.

Ramos is now training for the 2016 Paralympic Games and advocating for other disabled sailors—and showing them a viable option for sailing. “I’m starting a nonprofit organization and will be approaching community sailing centers. If they don’t already have a community sailing program, or an adaptive program for people with disabilities, I’m going to propose that they start one—using this equipment as a way to do that.”

Your gifts to Student Innovation Projects and Senior Multidisciplinary Design Projects help support these student teams as they learn through hands-on practice. Gifts help pay for the materials used in product development, updated design software, and travel and communications needs for the teams to meet first hand with their clients.