A design team from Clarkson University's Department of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering are finalists in the 2014 American Society of Mechanical Engineers Undergraduate Design Project Competition in Rehabilitation and Assistive Devices.
The team's project, "An Inexpensive Mechanically Powered Laryngopharynx Excitation Device for Speech Rehabilitation," aims to create a low-cost assistive device that utilizes purely mechanical energy storage and oscillatory system to excite the vocal tract for the production of voiced speech, Clarkson said.
This device, called the “mechanolarynx,” fills a void in the marketplace as an inexpensive option that is useful when access to portable electrical power is limited. The prototype was developed in collaboration with Gordon Reitema, a licensed speech language pathologist and director of the Utica-based Laryngectomy Support Group for Northern New York.
As part of being selected as a finalist, the team received a $3,000 grant from the ASME Bioengineering Division to help cover prototype development and conference travel expenses.
"It's not surprising they made it to the finals, mostly given the work that they put into it," associate professor Kevin Fite said.
To participate in the competition, students prepared a short paper in January describing their proposed device. Under the direction of Fite and assistant professors Byron Erath and Laurel Kuxhaus, students Kevin Creager, Peter Goss, Alexander Landauer, Maegan Lipinski and Andrea Westervelt researched the product need and market potential. Based on their findings, the students then developed the device prototype and economic plan for its commercialization, Clarkson said.
"This particular device was sort of a low-cost solution relative to existing technology," Fite said. "This is something more suited for developing countries, where perhaps you don't have access to commonplace electronic devices you have here in the States."
The final competition was held in July at the 2014 World Congress of Biomechanics, with more than 4,500 attendees gathered in Boston for the international conference. The teams each gave a presentation about the device, their development process and how the device would be marketed. Clarkson's design team was selected as a finalist from among 36 entries and went on to compete against five other finalists, the school said.