Rehabilitation Engineering Universal Design Challenge
School of Electrical, Electronic& Communications Engineering
University College Dublin
This paper will discuss the integration of universal design as part of the Rehabilitation Engineering module which forms part of the undergraduate and masters programmes in Biomedical Engineering at University College Dublin (UCD). The module is also taken by students on the Masters in Medical Device Design at the National College of Art and Design. The module was developed originally as a component of an all-Ireland MSc in Bioengineering and has evolved over the past 10 years into its current format.
The aim of the module is to introduce students to the field of Rehabilitation Engineering. Students learn about the principles underpinning Rehabilitation Engineering through a combination of lectures, assignments, and practical exercises. The module is delivered in an intensive 5-day format, during which students participate in lectures, lab work and design exercises. Students are based in UCD, Belfield and the National Rehabilitation Hospital, and receive lectures from faculty at UCD and a number of clinical guest lectures from organizations including the Centre for Universal Design at the NDA, the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Enable Ireland, and Spinal Injuries Ireland.
A key component of the module is a Universal Design Challenge in which students are required to develop initial concept design solutions that build on the core principles of Universal Design. Students combine these with relevant principles from engineering, information and communication technology and/or clinical practice to address clearly identified user needs/issues. The design challenge is run with considerable assistance and collaboration from the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design (National Disability Authority). It is an intensive experience that pushes randomly assigned teams of engineering and design students to develop solutions within a time-constrained environment.
Teams are assigned a different ‘challenge’ or topic each year and are required to develop initial concepts for design solutions that build on the core principles of Universal Design and combine these with relevant principles from engineering, information and communication technology and clinical practice to address clearly identified user needs/issues. Students are asked to design a product that will address key requirements arising from a disability that typically includes diminished strength, dexterity, mobility, sensory function and/or communication. The primary output is a new or redesigned product, tool or device that has the potential to make a significant difference to the user and to enable their ability to access the world.
Students work together over a 24-48 hour period before presenting their solutions to an assessment panel comprised of academic staff, clinicians and users. Projects are assessed on the ability of the design concept to meet the expectations defined with specific principles of Universal Design, and are graded on the criteria used for the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA) student design competition.
In recent years topics that have been addressed include ‘Navigation and Way-finding on Campus’, ‘Accessing the World Through Technology’ and ‘Ageing Related Functional Impairment – Everyday Consumer Products’.