Innovation changes the world — and changing the world of just one person still counts. We were reminded of this by the above video, which accompanied the online version of Case Western Reserve University’s 2013-14 annual report. The video tells how four students upgraded a little girl’s beloved motorized mini-car. Flynn McPherson, a member of the team, explains how the students were able to engineer opportunities: Elsies’ New Car:

“This project came about through my professor, Patrick Gannon, who taught my senior design class last spring. His longtime friend has a daughter who lives with cerebral palsy. She had outgrown her previous car, which had been one of her favorite ways to get around. While pitching design project ideas at the beginning of the semester, Pat introduced the idea of designing and building a new car for her. Having cared for disabled people in the past, I knew the value of mobility in providing some independence and allowing them to socially interact with their peers.

The most difficult aspect of this project was keeping our design simple enough that it could be built in one semester. There were many things we would have done if we had more time, but we had to focus on the requirements that were essential, such as adequate leg room, a fully supportive seat, easily-manipulated and ergonomic controls for someone with limited motor control and strength, and of course safety.”

McPherson, who has since graduated, worked with fellow students Alyssa Lauzau, Daniel Kwass and Fady Haddad.

This accomplishment is a great example of “needs-based design.” In this case, Innovation changed Elsie’s life and brought a big smile to her face.

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