For senior mechanical engineering students at Ohio University, their final design projects didn't just earn them a grade, it gave them a chance to fulfill a community need.
The Department of Mechanical Engineering's "Designing to Make a Difference" program encourages seniors to use their capstone design projects to help the elderly or handicapped.
The projects are not limited to people in need, though, explains department chair Greg Kremer.
"We pair students, teams of five or six students, with an individual who has maybe a physical disability, a small busines that has a need or international communities that have basic developmental needs like clean water," said Kremer.
Greg Kremer is the chair of the department and he says this program offers a unique opportunity for both students and community members.
"We have about 50 seniors each year that have to do a capstone design project where they bring together all the skills and lessons they've learned. And the designing to make a difference says why not work on a project that makes a real difference in the community. We have lots of needs in the local community, regional community and even internationally," said Kremer.
Kremer says students partner with an individual or business for about a year, learning about the problem at hand and designing a real, working prototype to deliver a workable solution. This year, one of the project partners was Amesville-based Green Edge Gardens.
The designs must be simple and cost-effective, explains Kremer.
"We try to help that on individual but it's really important that these solutions not only help them, but could be used by many other people. The only key to that is to make them very low-cost so that someone else will want to build them and potentially market them to others so the solutions can help other people as well," said Kremer.
"Designing to Make a Difference" has been around since 2008. The projects were showcased in mid-May. Kremer says the department hopes to continue the program for many years to come.