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Tech Program Creates Technology For Disabled Kids

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Tech Program Creates Technology For Disabled Kids

A Tennessee Tech program is showing the human side of engineering by creating assistive technology for disabled children.

Dr. Stephen Canfield said the Tech Engineering for Kids (TEK) program teams engineering students up with parents of special needs children to create assistive technology for each child’s disability.

“As a university professor, my primary goal is to provide a very strong educational experience for my students, and it does that,” Canfield said. “But at the same time, we get this extra benefit where we help, you know, other Tennesseans, families, schools, these children, and that’s extremely rewarding.”

Canfield said the most recent semester saw some 15 groups working on projects ranging from adaptive lockers to supportive wheelchairs. One project created prosthetics for a middle school drummer from Murfreesboro, who was born without hands.

Canfield said that, when tracking his students’ time, he finds that they spend a disproportionate amount of time communicating and working with the families compared to other classwork. Canfield said his students view the class as far more than just homework and class projects.

“A lot of times they’ll come back later and report in that they’ve stayed in touch with the family, that this project has kind of changed how they looked at engineering,” Canfield said. “It may impact their future career plans and the like.”

Cantrell said the program also shows students how they can apply their education in altruistic ways.

“I think they look at it both as this is the type of work that they will be doing in the future and I think they also look at it as a way that they could use their skills to help other people,” Canfield said. “Sometimes they don’t really think that they could use those skills, but they find that they’re so important.”

The program is offered every spring and fall at Tennessee Tech as part of their engineering curriculum. Canfield said that spaces are open for the fall semester for engineering students.


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