Ingenuity of Engineering Students Meets iPad Technology

The rewards of getting into this field of work is not simply because the mechanical engineering salary is a little more than decent, no. As mentioned before, mechanical engineering itself is a broad field and once you get into the area of software engineering, that’s when the magic occurs.

A perfect example of where ingenuity and engineering skills collide to benefit society is in the story of how a bunch of Michigan University engineering students took Apple’s iPad hardware and technology and turned it into a life-changing device.

The group at Michigan University collaborated with a team of computer science students to come up with an application that allowed a woman who suffered from cerebral palsy to go into a Starbucks and order herself a coffee despite her disabilities: motor skills in addition to difficulty speaking. And it was all achieved via the iPad’s application technology.

They came up with the idea when they were paid a visit by one of the representatives from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, whereby the representative asked them to come up with a solution for children who were suffering from debilitating diseases (and other impaired fine motor control and brain injuries), to allow them more easily utilize touch screens or mobile devices with small buttons.

This may be an effortless task for most of us, but to cerebral palsy suffers, this is no easy feat. The buttons on these modern touchscreen devices are so small that it makes operating them very difficult. The team wanted to make it possible for people with such disabilities to manipulate these mobile devices as easily as they do with their keyboard-driven computers at home.

From there, the software engineers were to create a smart app that turned the entire iPad screen into one huge button that is more easy to use. How the application works is, that all keyboard functions are separated into horizontal and vertical columns and each row and column would be highlighted in order – the keyboard keys would continually loop in this manner until the user touches any part of the screen. The selected key would be the one that was highlighted when the user pressed on the touchscreen.

It may seem like a very slow way to type but it allows these children with disabilities to operate the iPad and other similar touchscreen type devices without the help of their guardians. That small bit of freedom goes a long way.