Help wanted. Problems that need solving!


The coursework for one of the modules I'm taking this year at university requires for us to design and manufacture something to help someone. That is the brief. It can be software or hardware based (we're studying electronic engineering).

To help us pick a suitable project that can be completed within 11 weeks, myself and two others are brainstorming all of the problems we can think of so that we can have a large range of problems to choose from and design a solution.

If you can think of something that is hard for a cetain group of people that could be made easier with an engineered solution or if you can think of a problem that needs solving, I would love for you to post it below.

Some quick examples, many of these have been solved by otheres, they are just examples:
- steps are a problem for wheel chair users, a deployable ramp for converting steps into a ramp safely
- jars are hard to open for those with weak wrists or arthiritus, an apparatus to aid in their opening
- educating people on what they can do to reduce their carbon footprint is hard. A website to give users a weekly suggestion of things in their  life they might be able to change to be more environmentally friendly. They would be able to tick them as adopted or rejected and see a list of the things that they've changed for the better.

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I think a bus stop that has a surface that can erase any graffiti on it. like you could spray paint all you want and then spray something on it and erase it.
the sun that shines into ur house and onto your tv when you watching tv (or on some kind of thing with a screen) and it glares and you cant see the screen no more
Koosie6 years ago
I've always had an issue with the wheelchair design.  Thankfully I'm not bound to one, but my Grandmother is and I hate the way the frigging thing is so low down.

We are a big family but in general, why can't a wheelchair be designed to stand higher.  I reckon a five-wheel, semi-standing (and slightly leaning back) system could work well.

Two smaller wheels at bottom front and one at the back.  The thin wheel at the back won't have a problem turning.

Then two wheels on top of (and touching) the front wheels so that you move by turning the top wheels (which are in reach) that turn on the bottom wheels.  You'll have to turn them in the opposite direction but that should be better for stability.

Anyway, just my 2 cent idea.
kelseymh Koosie6 years ago
The term "wheelchair-bound" is considered derogatory language in the disability community.

Wheelchair users have a lot of opinions about this.  The low center of gravity is inherently safe, but it does create substantial access problems.  The large wheels used on manual chairs are there to allow for easy arm access for movement, as well as enough torque to get up to speed.  You'll note that motorized chairs use four equally sized smaller wheels.

There are a number of motorized chair designs which support vertical movement.  A quick Web search should find them.
Koosie kelseymh6 years ago
I remember many years ago seeing a man in a vertical, electrical chair.  It looked like the batteries and motors gave the base weight support.  A clever design but hugely expensive.  Surely some-one can design a simple (non-electric) chair similar to that.
kelseymh6 years ago
Hi, Jaye.  The fundamental issue with properly designing assistive technology is working with the end users.  Trying to figure out what someone else needs on your own, then designing it, then pushing it on the user community, is very much the old medical model of disability -- "we know better than you."

I would highly encourage you to contact your local independent living center (ILC or CIL is the generic acronym, depending on your locale).  Talk to their program director (or executive director, if the center is small) in person, if possible.  If you don't come across as wackos, they should be able to hook you up with some of their consumers to give you ideas, feedback and participation.

Ah good,  I posted:    Feb 19, 2010. 3:22 PM
 Kelseymh might be able to give you a few ideas too.
And here he is :-) 
What can I say?  I smelled the burning goat, and can I tell you what a lovely pentagram that is!  >:-)
Be careful, it's hard to get that burning goat smell out of your clothes!
who  got your goat ? 
Acutally (in all seriousness), the crazy hermit-lady with a houseful of champanzees got a couple of my goats!
she most have gotten really close to get your goatees
Only my Norelco (or Bic in an emergency) ever gets my goatee!
Hmmm, from this commercial, it appears that Bics are useful for more then just goatees  ;-) 
Is that why demons always show up naked?
no, it's because clothes are of no use in a place of fire....they just burn off...

After rolling around in Gahenna for near eternity, going au-natural only makes sense.  What's to be afraid of? Sunburn??
back when I smoked, that is one I never tried.....couldn't keep my goat lit.  Of course,  some whiskey might have helped....
I like this project.  :)

For me, adaptive tech is about crawling into someone's skin as much as it about shedding your box.

I don't have an answer for you but this short video by recent Arnheim fashion school grads  Malousebastiaan might get you thinking.

Watch #5 and think of being blind or unable to reach for something.

the only other advice I have is select something you are passionate about.  I believe at week 3 the passion wanes in any relationship.

Happy Valentines Day Jayefuu!
Well put, Lynne!  Thank you!
I don't know that much about blind people but I often see them on the train.

Now these people always have white sticks to guide them but they end up wacking them against everything. Ofcourse they have to do that otherwise they don't know where to go.

But what if you could make some sort of parking sensor on the end of there tip? They would hear a mild buzzing if they come within for example 20 centimeters of a certain object (wall, car...) this way they just have to follow there stick and when they hear a buzzing they'll know they have to adjust their path.

Ofcourse a different buzzing for front, left and right but i'll leave the rest for you to  figure out ;)

This would have to be REALLY quick sensing;  whacking things gives immediate feedback (I had some experience, blindfolded in both Sociology and Psych classes in High School).   The buzz can be missed, but if too loud would bother "others"  (not that getting whacked by a stick is NOT bothersome).   It would constantly sound if in close quarters, and if headphones were adapted, they would make hearing other things harder.

It is a good idea though, but some of these other things need addressed first :-)

Goodhart6 years ago
Kelseymh might be able to give you a few ideas too.
simplified looking,big letter,fewer button internet for old people!
the internet version of this
Ninzerbean6 years ago
 My grandmother and many others would love a phone with buttons big enough to see and or maybe 5 large buttons that could be programed to have set phone numbers in them, but not both. The problem is that most if not all phones do so many things that for an old person it is too complicated to use. As it is she is almost blind but if there was a device that had just a few easy to feel large buttons that we could program with her kid's phone numbers she could actually call her kids with out us all having to call her, as she just can't use the phone.
Jayefuu (author)  Ninzerbean6 years ago
That's a good idea. I'm sure there MUST be something like that out there already, but I'll definitely look into something like that. Perhaps an extreme version of the large button phone where there are just 5 or 6 buttons, each a different shape and each a different contrasting colour? Then severely vision impaired people may use it once it's been programmed with numbers of friends and family?
Yes, where I live there is 10 digit dialing for even local calls, it's too easy for her to make a mistake dialing so she won't even try, she needs something maybe where she can just say the person's name and it dials, that would be even better. She went blind about 5 years ago all of a sudden so she didn't have a lot of time to prepare for being blind. She is 96 but I think there is a huge market for this type of thing because as she was loosing her sight we looked all around to buy her anything to make her life easier, there is nothing like this out there, if there was then the assisted living place she lives would have told us, or one of her kids.
Jayefuu (author)  Ninzerbean6 years ago
Thanks. Speech recognition is definitely possible. Is there anything else she finds difficult?
 Well she has a hard time taking her pills because she can't see what is what so she puts them in little bowls lined up in an order she can remember. But the biggest problem is that because of technology so much can be done on such a little space, what she needs is something SIMPLE. You can't buy a simple phone anymore that does nothing more than dial, it has buttons all over it. Actually I think dialing would be easier than finding those little buttons. Speech recognition would be so easy if that was ALL it did. This market is only going to get bigger. It is amazing to my mom and myself that nothing exists for old blind or almost blind people in the phone area of products.
You can get phones with BIG buttons and one-touch dialling - any use?

 Yes, thank you!
Jayefuu (author) 6 years ago
All really good ideas so far. Thanks everyone. From the 5 or so ideas you all gave me I thought of a dozen more along similar lines.

Any more? Please? :D
lemonie6 years ago
Mmm tough. You could quite easily produce a "dead-man's pedal" for frail & vulnerable persons. They have to press it at least () times a day or they're flagged as "in need of an immediate visit",
I know people who work with related systems, they go through the phone network.

Jayefuu (author)  lemonie6 years ago
Cheers. On the list :)
Kiteman6 years ago
Something topical, maybe?

How about a tarmac-friendly version of snowchains?
Jayefuu (author)  Kiteman6 years ago
Thanks. Noted :)
=SMART=6 years ago
The Jar problem has been done to death, there are hundreds of products that aid grip or mechanically open it.

I think the carbon website is a good idea, maybe with some device that tracks real world things and makes graphs for the website, could track distance traveled or house temperature or something.

If you are still stuck maybe ask some design students what they are making and ask for ideas
Jayefuu (author)  =SMART=6 years ago
They were just suggestions smart, and yes, there are a LOT of those jar openy things around.

The carbon website's currently my favourite, perhaps hard to explain without giving me a 10 minute slot to rant in :p. Another silly idea was a plug that eliminates phantom charge by ejecting itself from the wall plug when a phone has finished charging :p
Perhaps a keyboard with larger keys for people who have bad eye sight (or bad aim)?
Jayefuu (author)  Rock Soldier6 years ago
A good idea. That's the kind we want, but there are a LOT of these on the market. It's going on the list, to make us feel better about the amount to choose from... the more the better!
caitlinsdad6 years ago
Haha, reading fast at first I thought - educating people on what they can do to reduce their cartoon footprint is hard... Moi?

Anyway, how about designing a quicker check-out process at the store queue? Keep all of your purchases in the cart, pass it under some optical recognition thing and drive out with the cart.  We do purchases in bulk at the warehouse club and most places are now turning to self-check-out.  It looms poor for check-out clerks and cashiers.  You can design a guerney-type cart that just collapes and slides into the cargo bay of your car.

Good luck.
Jayefuu (author)  caitlinsdad6 years ago
If I had any patches left, you'd get one. :)