NDP juniors and seniors are busy prototyping products designed to make a difference in the community.
Beginning with this school year, Notre Dame began offering a course as part of its high school science curriculum called Engineering and Empathy, which features the pedagogy of Project Invent, a nonprofit organization founded in 2016 to empower high school students to go out into their communities and invent technologies that make a difference.
Now well into the 2019-20 academic year, 20 juniors and seniors in the new class are busy designing and developing their E&E class projects, according to Louise Palardy, Notre Dame's STEM specialist and manager of the school's robotics center. She is teaching the class, which meets for 65 minutes five out of every eight school days.
"Each one of our teams in the class is working on a business plan and prototype for their projects," Palardy said. She said the new class involves creating an impactful technological invention, a business plan and marketing strategy.
"Each invention has to be created as a result of an individual's need," she added. "We are partnering with nonprofits in the area and visited a few of them already to get an understanding of the problems they are facing. Now that the kids better understand the problems, they are brainstorming solutions and currently going through the prototyping phase.
Engineering and Empathy class projects for this term are described below along with comments from some of the team members:
Project: Attachments to a Walker
Project description: The business is Marcheur Rapide, meaning "fast walker" in French. The team is creating a device that attaches to a walker and makes cleaning the floors easier for the disabled.
Student team comments: "Students need to have experience with robotics, coding, or engineering to do well in Engineering and Empathy. Going into this class, I thought we would learn how to code using different applications, instead of just going straight into projects. I love the idea of this class as it works on many skills, such as work ethic, teamwork, communication, business and marketing."
Project: Glove for Arthritis
Project description: The team plans on creating a specialized glove that directly eases the pain/discomfort of people who struggle with arthritis. The glove will provide a good hand massage while it also applies just the right amount of icy hot to the joints.
Student team comments: "As a group, we have enjoyed the whole process of this class. At first, we thought it would be out of our league because we were all inexperienced. As time went on, we managed to figure it out with the help of our teacher and other students."
Project: Improve Focus/Concentration
Project description: Project Delta is a company created to stimulate change within multiple companies. The team wants to help those who need it by creating an empathetic product that provides solutions for end-users.
The product, Mindfuse, is a multi-feature device that utilizes sensory inputs in order to improve focus, concentration and brain development as well as to combat stress and anxiety. Some of the features include LEDs, a speaker, a diffuser and a future possibility to add a pulsing vibration feature.
Student team comments: "As a group, we are enjoying this because it is hands-on and engaging. It is much nicer than sitting behind a desk and having a textbook teaching us. It is also a great learning experience because you get to dip into so many different fields. You need so many different aspects to create a product."
Project: Medication Dispenser/Tracker
Project description: Team S Industries seeks to improve the lives of self-medicating individuals with any form of movement or mental impairment. To accomplish this, they’re making the process of taking medicine as automated as possible through their first product, AutoPill, an automated pill dispensary. The idea is to simply add patient information to a smart mobile device, along with the times pills need to be taken, and the machine handles the rest.
Student team comments: "At each interval, our dispensary will trigger an LED with an alarm tone as well as dispensing the correct dosage of pills. The recipient then confirms that the pills were taken through a button press — and sensors detect that the pills are no longer in the tray. This product seeks to overtake other manual methods of pill control by being safer to use and by assuring that pills are being taken as expected as well as to record who’s taking the pills."
Project: Improve Focus/Improve Productivity
Project description: As a business, REAVelectronics hopes to improve the focus of students and people around the world. The team's first target demographic is Angel’s Place, a Southfield-based nonprofit that provides and creates nurturing, Christ-centered homes, communities and services for life-long care. The team hopes that the robot they are designing will enable the people at Angel's Place to stay more focused and, by extension, increase productivity. The ultimate goal is to extend the product reach from a demographic of Angel's Place to the entire world.
Student team comments: "Our product is the BeepBot, a robot that helps you focus. The robot incorporates a white-noise sound functionality and several robotic animations. The white noise is a proven technique to help people study. Additionally, with the rise in personalized items — from stylized backpacks to individualized pencil cases — a dancing robot will increase productivity and allow for short mental breaks.
Project: Company-wide Improvement to Identification Cards for Residents
The team discussed the chronic problem of providing sufficient information to emergency responders and visiting doctors especially during emergency situations.
Student team comments: "We prototyped adding a QR code to each resident's ID card that they carry and having a QR code for every resident in the house and on the key ring for the transportation provider. Each resident would have a unique QR code that links to a page on the Angel’s Place website. The individual page would have an emergency contact, the resident's name, resident's condition (i.e. non-verbal, visually impaired, hearing impaired). Currently, we are seeking permission through the HIPAA law to have medication and other conditions included."