Hands-on Activity: Wristwatch Design for the Visually Impaired

Contributed by: RET Program, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

A photograph shows a child's hands resting on a braille tablet. A watch is superimposed on top of the tablet.
Engineers create new technologies to help those with disabilities, such as people who are visually impaired.
copyright
Copyright © 2010 Washington State Department of Services for the Blind (braille tablet/hands) http://www.dsb.wa.gov/ and 2006 F16, Wikimedia Commons (braille watch) http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Watch_for_the_blind2.jpg

Summary

Students further their understanding of the engineering design process while combining mechanical engineering and bioengineering to create assistive devices. During this extended activity (seven class periods), students are given a fictional client statement and required to follow the steps of the engineering design process (EDP) to design a new wristwatch face for a visually impaired student at their school. Student groups share their designs with the class through design presentations. A successful design meets all of the student-generated design requirements, including the development of a new method of representing time that does not require the sense of sight. Through this activity, students design, construct and iterate classroom prototypes of their watch designs.
This engineering curriculum meets Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Engineering Connection

The engineering design process (EDP) is a widely accepted way of arriving at an optimized solution to an identified problem. This activity guides students through the EDP as they apply basic engineering concepts to create an assistive device—or, a device that is created or adapted to assist a person to complete a life activity. This project has the real-world design challenge of designing a wristwatch for a person with severe visual impairment. Mechanical engineers, who focus on the application of mechanics and the production of tools, machinery and their products, and bioengineers, who apply engineering knowledge to the fields of medicine and biology, are often involved early on in the creation of new technologies to assist people with disabilities. Their understanding of the engineering design process is a crucial component to successfully solving the challenges that help people in our communities.

Pre-Req Knowledge

Students should be familiar with the engineering design process and recognize that the process works in a circular, iterative fashion, rather than a strict linear process.

Learning Objectives

After this activity, students should be able to:

  • Utilize the engineering design process to develop a solution to a given problem.
  • Explain the reasons for their selected designs and material choices.
  • Make future recommendations based on the results of their prototype testing.
  • Summarize the problem, solution and future recommendations in an oral presentation.

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Educational Standards

Each TeachEngineering lesson or activity is correlated to one or more K-12 science, technology, engineering or math (STEM) educational standards.

All 100,000+ K-12 STEM standards covered in TeachEngineering are collected, maintained and packaged by the Achievement Standards Network (ASN), a project of D2L (www.achievementstandards.org).

In the ASN, standards are hierarchically structured: first by source; e.g., by state; within source by type; e.g., science or mathematics; within type by subtype, then by grade, etc.

  • Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • New products and systems can be developed to solve problems or to help do things that could not be done without the help of technology. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • The use of technology affects humans in various ways, including their safety, comfort, choices, and attitudes about technology's development and use. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Design is a creative planning process that leads to useful products and systems. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Requirements for design are made up of criteria and constraints. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Design involves a set of steps, which can be performed in different sequences and repeated as needed. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Brainstorming is a group problem-solving design process in which each person in the group presents his or her ideas in an open forum. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Modeling, testing, evaluating, and modifying are used to transform ideas into practical solutions. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Identify and explain the steps of the engineering design process, i.e., identify the need or problem, research the problem, develop possible solutions, select the best possible solution(s), construct a prototype, test and evaluate, communicate the solution(s), and redesign. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Demonstrate methods of representing solutions to a design problem, e.g., sketches, orthographic projections, multiview drawings. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
  • Explain examples of adaptive or assistive devices, e.g., prosthetic devices, wheelchairs, eyeglasses, grab bars, hearing aids, lifts, braces. (Grades 6 - 8) Details... View more aligned curriculum... Do you agree with this alignment?
Suggest an alignment not listed above

Materials List

Each group needs:

To share with the entire class:

  • colored pencils or markers
  • graph paper
  • drawing paper (enough for the prototype and the final project)
  • masking tape (enough for the prototype and the final project)
  • clear tape (enough for the prototype and the final project)
  • hot glue gun(s) and glue (enough for the prototype and the final project)
  • assorted cardboard, foam-core board, matting board and cardstock (enough for the prototype and the final project)
  • assorted lengths of string, ribbon, etc. (enough for the prototype and the final project)
  • box cutters
  • tin snips or heavy-duty scissors

Introduction/Motivation

(Introduce the following client statement to students)

Time Incorporated, a leading watch manufacturing company in New England whose target audience is the young adult consumer (11-19-years old), has hired you, the engineers of Rising Star Academy. A recent development in the school of the owner's children has given her the idea to develop a new wristwatch: a watch designed to help people with severe visual impairment.

Your engineering challenge is to develop a new wristwatch that fits the average 11-19-year old person, looks good, and is easy to understand. The number one goal of this product is to help young adults with visual impairment feel more independent.

Vocabulary/Definitions

assistive device: A device that is designed to help a person carry-out a given task.

bioengineering: The application of engineering skills to solve problems in the fields of life science.

biomedical engineering: The application of engineering skills to solve problems in the medical field.

constraints: The aspects of the design that must be met to be determined successful.

engineering design process: An iterative decision-making process to optimize resources in meeting stated objectives. The main elements of the engineering design process are: identify the problem, research the problem, develop possible solutions, select the best solution, create a prototype, test and evaluate, communicate the solution, and redesign.

function: What the design/product will do regardless of the chosen solution.

objective: What the design/product will "be" regardless of the chosen solution.

problem statement: A detailed description of the needs that will be met.

Procedure

Background

Bioengineering is the application of the engineering design process to the fields of medicine and biology. Bioengineers must have a solid understanding of biology, as well as the ability to draw upon electrical, chemical, mechanical and other engineering disciplines to create well-rounded solutions to challenges. They may work in a wide range of areas, including medical instrument design, pharmaceutical delivery systems, medical procedure design, and as demonstrated in this activity, the design of assistive devices.

Assistive devices such as wheelchairs, crutches and canes are known as ambulatory devices. These devices are designed to help physically disabled persons move around independently or with little assistance. Devices such as hearing aids, glasses, large utensil handles and computer hardware and software are known as ADL (activities of daily living) devices. Regardless of the classification of the assistive device, they are designed to help increase accessibility of the world around us for people with physical or cognitive disabilities. By improving access, these assistive devices help people with physical and cognitive disabilities to be more independent.

Activity Schedule

Day 1: Pre-test and guided background research.

Day 2: Introduce the project, define the problem, background research and develop possible solutions.

Day 3: Discuss possible solutions, complete pro/con list for each design and select best possible solution.

Day 4-5: Create formal designs and construct classroom prototype.

Day 6: Evaluate designs, complete EDP packet, and organize presentation.

Day 7: Student design presentations and post-test.

Pie graph that looks like an eyeball showing 83% of visual impairment can be corrected with glasses and 17 % cannot be corrected with glasses.
In the U.S., 14 million people are affected by visual impairment. 83% of them can improve their vision with glasses; 17% of them cannot.
copyright
Copyright © National Eye Institute, NIH http://www.nei.nih.gov/CanWeSee/images/NEI_Chart_300dpi.JPG

Before the Activity

With the Students

  1. Discuss the idea of an assistive device using information provided in the Background section. Have students identify some of the difficulties faced by people who are visually impaired.
  2. Show students the Helen Keller Speaks Out video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ch_H8pt9M8. Discuss with students how Helen Keller overcame some of the challenges in her life.
  3. Direct students to use the internet to complete the Guided Research handout.
  4. Introduce students to the Wristwatch for the Visually Impaired project using the Wristwatch Project Description and the Engineering Design Process Packet. Have the class brainstorm 10 possible challenges for people with visual impairments.
  5. Read to theh class the project introduction and client statement from the EDP Packet.
  6. Divide the class into groups of three students each. Direct groups to follow the engineering design process to complete the project. As students move through the process, have them confer with the teacher at the following points, before moving ahead (see Engineering Design Process Packet):
  • Identify the need (problem statement, function, constraint, objective): In the Wristwatch for the Visually Impaired EDP Packet, have students clearly define the problem based on the client statement provided. Have them identify the functions, objectives and constraints of a successful solution.
  • Research: Have students use the internet to research existing solutions for the problem, as well as other topics that relate to the problem such as how people without sight read or write.
  • Develop possible solutions: Have students sketch three (minimum) or more solutions to the design problem. Sketches must be detailed enough to get their idea across to their group members.
  • Select the best solution: As group members share their three or more ideas, the group creates a pros/cons T-chart for each design. Then the groups use the T-charts to help select the best design solution to create as a group.
  • Multi-view drawings and prototype construction: Each member of the group creates a multi-view drawing for the selected design, drawn on graph paper using a ruler and a consistent scale. Require each set of drawings to include at least three different views. After creating the multi-view drawings, students construct their prototypes.
  • Test and evaluate: Each group needs to develop three to four survey questions to be used to evaluate the wristwatch designs. Have students choose five other students to evaluate their design. Ensure that all students are involved in evaluating another team's design; students may evaluate two designs, if necessary. The data collected helps determine the success of the student design.
  • Communicate solutions: Have students evaluate the success of their designs based on test results, and share these evaluations in the design presentations at project end.
  • Redesign (future recommendations): In the Future Recommendations portion of the Wristwatch for the Visually Impaired EDP Packet, have students explain any changes to their designs that would help improve the success of their prototypes. Include a detailed sketch of the improved design.
  1. Direct students to turn in their completed packets, including the guided background research papers and the design solutions that they did not select, as an assessment tool.
  2. Have each group present its design, test results, results evaluation and future recommendations to the class during a brief design presentation. Be sure that students explain how their watch designs will affect the daily lives of people with severe visual impairment. This presentation serves as one of the post -assessment tools for this project. See some examples of student-generated wristwatch designs in Figure 1.
    A photograph shows five different-looking student designed wristwatches, all with raised dots on the watch faces or bands.
    Figure 1. Many design solutions are possible for the wristwatch design project
    copyright
    Copyright © 2013 Jared Quinn, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Attachments

Safety Issues

  • Alert students to be cautious when using the glue gun, which poses a safety hazard of skin burns.
  • Box cutters are very effective for cutting corrugated cardboard, but they can cause serious injury. Tin snips are able to cut the cardboard with minimal effort while posing only a limited safety hazard.

Assessment

Pre-Activity Assessment

Engineering Design Pre-Test: Have students complete the Engineering Design Pre-Test to help evaluate their understanding of the engineering design process prior to the activity.

Activity Embedded Assessment

Engineering Design Process Packet: As students work through the activity, they complete the Engineering Design Process Packet, which functions as a formative assessment for students' abilities to follow the engineering design process.

Drawing & Prototype: Students' abilities to visually demonstrate solutions to design problems are assessed as they create drawings and prototypes of wristwatch designs.

Post-Activity Assessment

Student Design Presentations: Following the completion of the design packet, each group shares its project with the class. Limit presentations to ~5 minutes in length. Require that presentations focus on students' work within the design process and include test results and at least one future recommendation to improve their wristwatch designs. Assess students on their abilities to follow the design process and whether they were able to clearly describe their design concepts to others.

Engineering Design Post-Test: Direct students to complete the Engineering Design Post-Test to help evaluate the growth in their understanding of the engineering design process.

Additional Multimedia Support

Extraordinary People - The boy who sees without eyes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLziFMF4DHA

Helen Keller Speaks Out video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ch_H8pt9M8.

How a Blind Person Tells Money Apart video clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6U__YAwfXvM

How Blind People Use Twitter & YouTube on the iPhone 4S: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0nvdiRdehw

References

Assistive Devices/Technologies. Disabilitie and Rehabilation, World Health Organization. Accessed July 15, 2013. http://www.who.int/disabilities/technology/en/

"Bioengineering." Encyclopedia Britannica Academic Edition. Accessed July 3, 2013. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/65846/bioengineering

Girifalco, Louis A. et al. "Materials Science." Encyclopedia Britannica Academic Edition. Accessed July 3, 2013. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/369081/materials-science

Kedlaya, Divakara. Assistive Devices to Improve Independence. Updated June 11, 2013. Medscape, WebMD LLC. Accessed July 15, 2013. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/325247-overview

Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework. October 2006. Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Accessed July 8, 2012. http://www.doe.mass.edu/frameworks/scitech/1006.doc

"Mechanical engineering." 2013. Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Accessed July 10, 2013. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mechanical%20engineering

Contributors

Jared Quinn, Kristen Billiar, Terri Camesano, Jeanne Hubelbank

Copyright

© 2014 by Regents of the University of Colorado; original © 2012 Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Supporting Program

RET Program, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Acknowledgements

This activity was developed under National Science Foundation grant no. EEC 1132628. However, these contents do not necessarily represent the policies of the National Science Foundation, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.

Last modified: May 10, 2017

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