MIT students test new product at Carleton-Willard

December 22, 2009

Bedford Minuteman


According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-third of all adults over 65 will have a major fall this year.Fortunately, the majority of those falls do not result in an injury necessitating a visit to the hospital. But if you live alone, getting back onto your feet or calling for help can be an ordeal. This was the problem a team of mechanical engineering students at MIT set out to solve.

As part of their “Product Processes” course, a group of 14 seniors and two juniors designed an innovative new walker to solve the dilemma. Their device includes a seat that can be lowered to floor level with the push of a button. Once aboard the seat, another push of the button will raise the user back to the safety of standing.

One of the MIT course mentors encouraged the students to contact Carleton-Willard Village to ensure their design was practical and met real world needs. Initially, Derek Logan, the director of rehabilitation at Carleton-Willard Village, along with two residents, Caleb Warner and Colonel Edgar Grabhorn, met with the students to offer suggestions to help refine their design.

On Friday, Dec. 4, the students returned to Carleton-Willard with their updated prototype for demonstration and additional consultation. Four other Carleton-Willard residents, all MIT alumni, joined the group this time. As Mr. Dexter Whitinghill, MIT class of ’51, played the role of someone who had fallen and then used the device to get easily back on his feet, there was a lively discussion about how the new device could be marketed, and how it could be further improved upon.

“The immense degree of intellect and creativity these young people employ in tackling a problem or challenge,” said Logan. “For me personally, watching some of my clinical experience unfold into their practical, real world experience was quite rewarding. The greatest fun by far was observing these two generations of brilliant persons interact – the mutual respect shown each other was admirable.”

On Monday, Dec. 7 the students unveiled and presented their prototype walker at an MIT Ideas Fair, along with the projects from other teams. Logan and over 100 representatives from industry and academia were invited to attend.

© 2009 Carleton-Willard Village