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First-year engineer Olivia Norton shows off her toy.
John McDonald/the Gauntlet

Engineers think outside oil and gas

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Typically, engineers are notorious for zany pranks and their keener-than-thou attitudes. It's not every day that they try to save the world.

Well, maybe not so much save the world, but first-year engeineers are designing toys for disabled children and getting involved with the community.

The Schulich School of Engineering has teamed up with the Gordon Townsend School, which is located in the Alberta Children's Hospital and houses programs designed to help children with disabilities. Over 750 first-year engineers are designing the toys as part of their ENGG 251 course.

Each group consists of four members who contribute $10 to their overall budget. They are given six weeks to design a toy for a specific disability.

"Fourty dollars is a fairly reasonable budget, considering how specially-made toys go for around or over $50," said Kara Chromistek, one of the coordinators of the project. "This project promotes adapting toys with materials that are not as expensive but just as effective."

The engineers are designing toys for specific disabilities such as cerebral palsy, quadrupulegia, parapulegia, arthrogryposis, Guillian-Barres & Schnilders Syndrome and rehabilitation patients.

To aid students with their projects, guest speakers for each disability lectured in classes and the students will work with orthopedists, occupational therapists and physiotherapists to get more information.

"The engineers are given say, a range of motion that their child is limited to and then they figure out a design based on the information given," said Graham Armitage, fellow project coordinator. "These descriptions are modeled after legitimate individuals."

Abilitations Creations, an American company which produces toys for disabled children, is going to select the five best designs and manufacture them.

"This is a good project," said Phil du Plessix, another project coordinator. "It shows engineers are into more than oil refinery. This is an application to help people. This is about bridges being built from the university to the community."

First year-student Mike Bezooyen agreed.

"We've really enjoyed using what we've learned to help people," he said.

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