Creative Partnership

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Creative Partnership with Northwestern University

Since 2009, Northwestern University engineering students have been using their knowledge and creativity to improve the quality of life for many of the men and women at Lambs Farm.

The Segal Design Institute of Northwestern University requires all freshmen engineering students to take the Design, Thinking and Communication class.  This program is one of the only in the country allowing freshmen students to work with actual clients.

“We want the students to think about who the product is for and to engage in feedback during the design process.  This feedback is an integral part of the design process,” said Segal Design Institute Co-Director Bruce Ankenman.

To accomplish this task, each year the University requests organizations like Lambs Farm to submit proposals on a problem that the students could help solve.

“Having projects from Lambs Farm is a great experience for our students to work with people with developmental disabilities,” stated Ankenman.  “Technology can really help meet their needs and help them grow their independence.”

In the Fall of 2012, Lambs Farm submitted a proposal for a sleep tracking device as some Participants were having trouble sleeping. We needed a system to accurately report sleep patterns for their doctors to evaluate.  A push light called the Bedside Buddy Button was ultimately developed, and even won an award within its class.  The prototypes of all their ideas were given to Lambs Farm to help with this problem.

According to the students’ user manual, “The Bedside Buddy Button consists of an illuminating button that mounts to the wall or any flat surface convenient for the user.  When pushed, this button records a time to a microSD memory card and the data is read as a collection of timestamps.  The button always remains illuminated, but when pushed, the light within the button turns off for 15 minutes.  After 15 minutes, the light turns back on signaling that users can push the button again if awake or that the user is asleep if no longer pressed.”

Mary Lee Segal is one of the Participants who has been using the sleep aid device.  She has found the device very helpful in tracking her sleep.  “It shows my doctor when I am awake.  This helps me to get the right medicine, so I can sleep better,” said Segal.

This Spring, indoor bocce balls were also designed by the students for use in recreation and for our Special Olympics teams.

According to Recreation Manager Kreig Alm, “The new bocce balls allow the indoor practice to be closer to what it is like outside.  It is more accurate.”

Other products the Institute has developed for Lambs Farm are easy access snack boxes, a safe cutting tool, rollaters that encourage good posture, exercise equipment for someone in a wheelchair and a rain shield for both the person in a wheelchair and the person pushing the wheelchair.  Lambs Farm is able to keep all of the end products.

We appreciate this unique partnership and the creative solutions that have helped improve the lives of the men and women of Lambs Farm.

This story was featured in our most recent Lambs Tales newsletter.  To read this newsletter click here.

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