More than 15 percent of the world’s population (about 1 billion people) live with disabilities, such as hearing, vision, mental health or mobility challenges. EPICS in IEEE engaged the ingenuity of students around the world to solve these accessibility issues, enable adaptive services, redesign technology for equity, and develop assistive technologies within their communities through its Access & Abilities Competition.
The Access and Abilities Competition, made possible in partnership with the IEEE Foundation, challenged university students from all over the world to use their engineering skills to help solve accessibility issues within their communities. Through this competition, students, faculty and IEEE professionals came together with community organizations to address the technological needs of communities through service learning.
Student teams were awarded between US$1,000 and US$10,000 to build their prototype or solution in collaboration with their community partners within 12 months. Projects range from a sound detection device in Canada to a wheelchair electric assist device in the US to a self-navigating robotic walking aid in Malaysia. The projects involved more than 350 students and 149 IEEE volunteers and aim to impact an estimated 8,000 individuals in the first year of deployment.
This competition was funded by the Jon C. Taenzer Memorial Fund established by the IEEE Foundation in 2019 with a generous bequest from the Estate of Mr. Taenzer, an IEEE Life Senior Member. Together, EPICS in IEEE and the Taenzer Fund provided US$90,000 for the Access and Abilities Competition to support technology for those with disabilities.
The projects will be wrapping up in the first quarter of 2024. Here are highlights from just three of these amazing projects funded through the Access and Abilities competition.
Game Changer -USA
A team of students at the University of Florida at Gainesville, aim to help individuals with hand or arm deficiencies to enjoy the exciting and rapidly-growing world of gaming. The goal for the team is to create five Adaptive Mouse devices and deliver them to five recipients involved with Hands to Love, a Florida-based organization that supports children with upper limb differences.
Innovation in Motion – Panama
“Closing the Gap in Engineering Education for People with Disabilities — Panama” project focuses on the Panamanian population with visual and/or physical disabilities and seeks “to provide them with tools that allow them to attend educational institutions that have almost non-existent spaces for inclusion.” The project involves 15 undergraduate students from the Universidad Tecnologica de Panama’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Departments and 24 students from four different high schools in Chiriquí (50% of whom are female). Among other objectives, the project aims to enhance autonomy, individual development, and quality of life for people with moderate to severe visual impairment and/or physical disabilities.
Uplifting Innovation – Pakistan
The “Low-Cost Stairlift” project hopes to introduce an affordable device that will usher in a new degree of hope, independence and inclusivity for differently abled users in their region. With more than 20 million disabled people in Pakistan, this project aims to provide a practical solution for individuals with impaired mobility and ensure that accessibility isn’t hindered by financial constraints or stairlift availability.
These are just 3 examples of the amazing EPICS in IEEE projects that are underway. To learn more about all of the Access and Abilities projects and other impactful EPICS in IEEE projects made possible by donations to the IEEE Foundation, join the EPICS in IEEE mailing list. In 2024 the EPICS in IEEE program will celebrate its 15th Anniversary of supporting and facilitating service learning projects and impacting students and local communities around the world.