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Engineers design systems to help children with special needs
Date:6/9/2014

MANHATTAN, KANSAS A group of Kansas State University engineers and students have developed technology to improve the health and quality of life for children with severe developmental disabilities.

Steven Warren, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Punit Prakash, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, are collaborating with Heartspring Inc. The Wichita-based nonprofit organization is a therapeutic residential and day school program that uses evidence-based and emerging best practices to serve students who often have multiple diagnoses, including autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, speech and language impairments, and other developmental disabilities.

The collaborative work is supported by a five-year $125,000 grant from the National Science Foundation's General and Age-Related Disabilities Engineering program.

The professors are using the grant to teach senior design courses where engineering students develop customized devices and software to help children at Heartspring. The professors and students collaborate with Heartspring administrators, clinicians and paraeducators to understand the needs of these children. Most of the children have a primary diagnosis of autism and a majority are nonverbal.

"The intent of this program is to pursue a specific design for a specific child when possible," Warren said. "When we are finished with a design, that individual would then get to keep and use a copy of the design. This is research where you can add immediate benefit to these children's lives."

The design courses began in fall 2011. Nearly 30 professors and students took part on design teams during the 2013-2014 academic year. The courses have involved several engineering departments, including electrical and computer engineering; mechanical and nuclear engineering; biological and agricultural engineering; and industrial engineering.

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Contact: Steven Warren
swarren@k-state.edu
785-532-4644
Kansas State University
Source:Eurekalert  

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