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  • Phone: 315/268-4483
09-01-2014

Clarkson University Design Team Selected as Finalist in Design Project Competition

An integrated design team from the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at Clarkson University has been selected as a finalist in the 2014 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Undergraduate Design Project Competition in Rehabilitation and Assistive Devices.

MAE UndergraduatesThe team's project, "An Inexpensive Mechanically Powered Laryngopharynx Excitation Device for Speech Rehabilitation," aims to create a low-cost assistive device that utilizes purely mechanical energy storage and oscillatory system to excite the vocal tract for the production of voiced speech.

This device, called the “mechanolarynx,” fills a void in the marketplace as an inexpensive option that is particularly useful when access to portable electrical power is limited. The prototype was developed in collaboration with Gordon Reitema, a licensed speech language pathologist and director of the Utica-based Laryngectomy Support Group for Northern New York.

As part of being selected as a finalist, the team received a $3,000 grant from the ASME Bioengineering Division to help cover prototype development and conference travel expenses.

Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Kevin Fite said design teams from Clarkson historically do well in the competition because students spend a lot of time researching solutions and writing an extended abstract before they begin their design.

"It's not surprising they made it to the finals, mostly given the work that they put into it," he said.

To participate in the competition, students prepared a short paper in January describing their proposed device. Under the direction of Fite and Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Assistant Professors Byron Erath and Laurel Kuxhaus, students Kevin Creager '14, Peter Goss '14, Alexander Landauer '14, Maegan Lipinski '14 and Andrea Westervelt '14 researched the product need and market potential. Based on their findings, the students then developed the device prototype and economic plan for its commercialization.

Fite said the competition gives students an opportunity to see design applied to a clinically relevant issue. He said students work on designs that could potentially have a major impact on someone's quality of life.

"This particular device was sort of a low-cost solution relative to existing technology," he said. "This is something more suited for developing countries, where perhaps you don't have access to commonplace electronic devices you have here in the States."

The final competition was held in July at the 2014 World Congress of Biomechanics, with more than 4,500 attendees gathered in Boston for the international conference. The teams each gave a presentation about the device, their development process and how the device would be marketed. Clarkson's design team was selected as a finalist from among 36 entries and went on to compete against five other finalists.  

Kuxhaus said the conference taught students how to communicate their messages quickly and effectively. She said the students gained the ability to explain a new concept and device to an audience who had never considered the problem before.

"It was their first professional conference and a chance to practice all the good skills they learned at Clarkson," she said.

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: An integrated design team from the Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering at Clarkson University has been selected as a finalist in the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Undergraduate Design Project Competition in Rehabilitation and Assistive Devices. Above, Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering Assistant Professor Laurel Kuxhaus, left, attends the 2014 World Congress of Biomechanics with Maegan Lipinski '14, Alexander Landauer '14 and Peter Goss '14.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/mae-undergraduates.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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