Device Opens Doors For Wheelchair Users, Could Net Students National Prize
Zipping along in his wheelchair, Scott Dorfman often must rely on others to open doors for him. But a new device developed by a group of high school students is changing that.
The tool called the Operational Portable Entry Device, or O.P.EN., has a mechanical arm with a clamp at one end. It is designed for a wheelchair user like Dorfman, 28, who has cerebral palsy, to open doors without having to lean out of the chair. The device is adjustable and works on a variety of door handles.
Students at Gulliver Preparatory School in Miami developed O.P.EN. with Dorfman’s needs in mind, but made sure it would be applicable for others who rely on wheelchairs as well.
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Now the team of students is among five finalists in the National Engineering Design Challenge, which will award a $3,000 prize this Thursday to the team of high schoolers who designed the best device to help a person with a disability in the workplace.
The students overcame many challenges to create an affordable, compact tool that would work on a variety of door handles while remaining safe for the operator to use. Though initially motivated by winning the top prize, the students were won over by a more meaningful purpose after spending time with Dorfman.
“This will give him so much independence. Winning is really secondary,” one student told the Miami Herald. To read more click here.