Abstract & Significance: Designing Prototypes for Fall Prevention Testing Among Local Senior Citizens

The World Health Organization states that falls are the second-leading cause of accidental death worldwide. Adults over 65 years of age are most likely to suffer from fatal falling. Today, the College of William & Mary runs a joint program with Williamsburg Landing to investigate ways to minimize such accidental falls. In service of this effort, the Departments of Applied Science and Physics propose to form an interdisciplinary student team that specializes in design thinking, project management, and entrepreneurship. Each team member will guide the development of a prototype technology through the stages of design thinking, including establishing connections with the user community to characterize their needs, envisioning a series of potential prototypes, evaluating their likely usefulness and construction requirements, and down-selecting to a specific choice. Once a team member has made that choice, she/he will design a testing protocol and construct and test the instrument. Such instruments will likely test a person’s balance, muscle strength, response time, or any other standard test being conducted by fall prevention scientists. The expected outcome of this project is that new instrumentation will make the collection and/or processing of the relevant information much easier and more complete than the current standard tests.

My research will produce new knowledge of interdisciplinary teamwork on engineering projects as well as new interpretation of how to make numerical measurements easy-to-understand. Since engineering teamwork will be performed in a liberal-arts setting, the resulting prototype is expected to achieve that standard thanks to the problem-solving abilities that are grounded on engineering design. Near the end of the spring 2020 semester, that device should be ready for the patenting process, and it will serve as one of the deliverables from my observations. A website that keeps track of the team design progress leading up to the final product will serve as a second deliverable and can act as a digital research notebook that all capstone members will use.

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