Teams Garner First, Third Places
By Edwin L. Aguirre
Two teams of UMass Lowell senior students bested 11 other schools from across the country and abroad to win the top honors at this year’s Design for Direct Digital Manufacturing Competition.
Sponsored by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME), the annual competition requires students to design and build prototypes of innovative products using direct digital manufacturing (DDM) processes.
Adam McLaughlin, Jordan Tye, Lisabet Sizer and Mark Damplo garnered first place for their creation, a custom forearm handgrip for crutches with an integrated iPod controller and flashlight, while Joshua Valley, Benjamin Zlindra-Short and Jon Salerno won third place for their customizable Sony PlayStation 3 controller. The teams’ faculty advisers were Asst. Profs. Byungki Kim of Mechanical Engineering and Stephen Johnston of Plastics Engineering.
Students from the Southern Illinois University Edwardsville finished in second place with their adjustable-blade ceiling fan.
Assisting People With Physical Disabilities
The first-place team’s DDM-designed forearm handgrip allows people using crutches to comfortably and effortlessly control an iPod while walking, especially those with lifelong disabilities or injuries suffered on the battlefield.
“With such a large number of crutches sold, if this product could reach even just a small fraction of crutch users, the product would still make a huge positive impact on the lives of people with physical disabilities,” says McLaughlin.
The custom PlayStation 3 controller was reverse-engineered using stock electronics from a Sixaxis wireless controller for the PlayStation. The new controller gives gamers more options when personalizing or modifying their video game systems to suit their specific needs and skills.
“All of this year’s winners were outstanding for not only their ingenuity, but also for their ability to recognize products that consumers can actually use and appreciate,” says David Leigh, vice chair of the SME’s Rapid Technologies & Additive Manufacturing (RTAM) Community.
An Eye-Opening Experience
“The competition opened my eyes to both the field of direct digital manufacturing and the technologies available,” says McLaughlin. “It is knowledge that I will bring with me my entire career and it will influence the means by which I approach an engineering problem in the future.”
Says Tye: “Winning the competition was an absolutely incredible experience from all aspects. The project itself was not only very challenging but very educational and rewarding as well. We really had a chance to let our imaginations run wild with the technology.”
McLaughlin and Tye both graduated in May with bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and are currently pursuing their master’s degrees in the same field. They are currently teaching assistants in the Mechanical Engineering Department. The two had previously attended UMass Lowell’s DesignCamp summer program and spent the past summer as assistant teachers for the middle- and high-schoolers attending the camp.
“DesignCamp offers hands-on experience working with tools and gaining knowledge that you wouldn’t find anywhere else,” says McLaughlin.