Industrial Design Students Help Develop Solutions for Paralyzed Teen


PhilaU graduate industrial design students have been working with Thomas Jefferson University students to come up with solutions to help Lariq Byrd maximize the limited use he has of his left wrist and hand.

The day after Christmas last year, 16-year-old Lariq Byrd’s life changed in an instant when he was struck by a bullet that left him mostly paralyzed from the neck down. Byrd, once an active teen, now requires a ventilator, wheelchair and round-the-clock nursing care.

To try to improve his quality of life, five Philadelphia University graduate industrial design students have been working this fall with 22 Thomas Jefferson University medical and pharmacy students to come up with solutions to help Byrd maximize the limited use he has of his left wrist and hand.

The students, who volunteered for the non-credit project, worked in transdisciplinary teams throughout the semester on problem definition, idea refinement and prototyping. They presented their best concepts at the final workshop Nov. 29.

One team that included industrial design graduate students Nikhil Gala and Jeanée Vilja and two TJU students worked on a remote-control system that would allow Bryd to use micro movements of his hand to change the channel and play video games.

In another group, industrial design graduate student Mohan Veeramachineni worked with two TJU teammates on a glove to improve hand grip for tasks when Byrd returns to school.

The other PhilaU students in the course were Marisha Gogolowski and Satej Koli.

The project to explore design solutions for those with disabilities was a collaboration between PhilaU and JeffDESIGN at TJU’s Sidney Kimmel Medical College. During six workshops, held at the Comcast Collaboration Studio in South Kensington, faculty members instructed students on digital fabrication technology, 3D printing and patient­centered design.

“Right now, progressive health care providers are embracing and exploring design as a means to uncover solutions that will improve outcomes, reduce cost and increase patient satisfaction,” said Mikael Avery, PhilaU adjunct industrial design professor. “By getting industrial design and health care students to work together while still in school, a project like this lays the groundwork for future collaborations.”

Avery co-caught the course with Bon Ku, MD, MPP, associate professor in the department of emergency medicine and director of JeffDESIGN, and Robert Pugliese, PharmD, BCPS, clinical assistant professor in the College of Pharmacy and co-director of JeffDESIGN. Pugliese said the faculty members wanted students to achieve three main goals from the project, which was sponsored by Comcast.

“The first and arguably most important was to strengthen their design-thinking muscles with a focus on empathy building,” Pugliese said. “Doctors and designers alike must have the ability to understand the perspectives and experiences of others if they are to be effective.”

The second goal was to create a diverse inter-professional class where students could learn from the experiences of those outside their field and solve a real problem as part of a team, Pugliese said. Lastly, they wanted to introduce students to 3D printing technology and show how it can benefit patients and be a useful tool in their arsenal.

“Jefferson’s medical students in the JeffDESIGN co-curricular program are amazingly smart, energetic, dedicated and curious,” said Tod Corlett, director of PhilaU’s industrial design programs and William L. Jasper Chair for Industrial Design. “They’re great partners for the best design students PhilaU can produce, and I’m looking forward to making the ties between our programs closer as the institutions combine.”

Next semester, PhilaU industrial design and JeffDESIGN at TJU will expand on the project’s success by offering Healthcare & Industrial Design, the first for-credit course enrolling students from both universities, Corlett said.

Designing for Disability at the Comcast Collaboration Studio from The Lightning Strike on Vimeo.

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