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The Susu and Mark A.  Fischer ’72 Engineering Design Center was buzzing with creative energy this past weekend as 60 students participated in Aggies Invent for Assistive Technology. The 48-hour intensive design competition gives students the opportunity to create a concept, design a prototype and pitch their product to a panel of judges. Students were tasked with developing solutions to problems faced by people with disabilities. In the end, it was a team of six students who took home first place for their wheelchair design that would allow the user to climb stairs.

“We worked with TEES Technology Accessibility Compliance to develop need statements that would benefit so many people who have disabilities,” said Rodney Boehm, director of the Engineering Entrepreneurship Program. “These students came prepared to tackle the challenges presented to them, and they did so with enthusiasm and creativity.”

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Aggies Invent winning team, Hi Roller. | Image: Kimberly Ikpo

Team Hi Roller’s winning concept used a triple-wheel design that would vault wheelchair wheels up a standard-sized staircase. They designed a working small-scale prototype that they demonstrated in their pitch video. The team won $1,000 for their design.

I’ve always been interested in how people who have disabilities have a different perspective, and I want to find ways to make things more accessible.

Linda Bustaman ‘19, a teammate and biomedical engineering student. She hopes to one day work in the assistive technology industry.

It’s the third time Linda Bustaman has participated in Aggies Invent and the second time she’s won first place. 

“One of the reasons I came back is because no matter how many times you’ve done it, it’s always going to be different,” she said.

Boehm said there were many students at this Aggies Invent who have participated in the past.

“It really showed,” he said. “Good teams are comprised of students with a variety of skill sets, and every team brought something unique to the table.”

Hi Roller teammate Carla Bassil ‘22 agreed.

Students hug, one student smiling, during event.
Winning team members hug when they won. | Image: Kimberly Ikpo

“I think the biggest thing about Aggies Invent is that it really teaches you about delegating,” she said. “Not everybody has the same skill set. While I’m good at one thing, I’m not good at everything. This helps you learn to work with people who have different skills and how to leverage that.”

This was Bassil’s second time participating in Aggies Invent.  

“Last time I didn’t win anything, but it was the most impactful educational experience I’ve had,” she said. “Rodney makes things happen. He brought us actual wheelchairs and brought someone in who uses a wheelchair that we could talk to.”

Teammate Jeriel Jammullamudy ‘22, an aerospace engineering student, participated in Invent for the Planet in February. He said the most important thing he learned this time around is that you’re often the strongest when you’re going through a difficult time.

“Our video wasn’t working, our presentation wasn’t ready on time and everything went wrong,” he said. “We got together and we were like, ‘We’ll handle these bumps.’”

And that’s what they did.

“Rodney always says, ‘If you can dream it, we can make it.’” Jammullamudy said. “You literally can build anything here.”

The team would like to pursue a patent for their design, and they’re considering moving their concept forward through the Engineering Incubator at Texas A&M.

Five male students hold second place check.
Second place team, Safe Walk. | Image: Kimberly Ikpo

The second-place team, Safe Walk, designed a white cane attachment that would help a person with blindness walk in a straight line and avoid obstacles.

Third-place team StableGRIP developed a tremor-reducing product that would allow people with neurodegenerative diseases to complete simple tasks like brushing their teeth or using utensils.

Student winners and mentors pose in front of banners
Honorable mention, Soundception, won for their accessible music production tech. | Image: Kimberly Ikpo

The judges requested that an honorable mention category be added because the competition was so strong. A fourth team, Soundception, won this category for their accessible music production technology that would allow a person who is blind to create digital music more easily.

This Aggies Invent was made possible by Amazon Web Services and MediaSite. The Brazos Valley Center for Independent Living provided wheelchairs to assist students in their design process. For more information about Aggies Invent, visit the website.