Leslie Kaplan, Richard Kurtz, and Catherine Nolan
Kaplan, Kurtz, Nolan, and several strategic community business, social, and educational partners, created the winning program, "Real Problems/Real Solutions: Service Engineering Program," to encourage students to apply their engineering knowledge to solve real problems for people who are "differently-abled." The community service program offers students at Commack High School a hands-on experience to design and construct devices to improve the lives of those who face specific physical and mental challenges. Last year, the program began when a group of students designed and built a device to modify a workspace to help a staff member at United Cerebral Palsy (UCP). To expand the program for this year, students will first learn about specific physical and mental challenges individuals encounter daily. Then, they will interview persons with cerebral palsy at UCP, professional engineers, and teachers to determine the specifics for an invention to assist UCP participants. In addition, students will draft designs for adaptations to existing electronic devices that hinder use by those with challenges. By working directly with those who are differently-abled, the students will have the opportunity to apply their classroom studies to the real world. This project is fueled by the diverse groups collaborating toward one goal â€” finding solutions to real problems affecting members of the community. Kaplan will enter the students' project into the National Engineering and Design Challenge.