Uvonne Andoh, Management of Aging Services
“How does designing assistive technology with a physical therapist help older adults?”
As the population of older adults increases, assistive technologies can enable a growing population of older adults to function independently and maximize their quality of life. These older adults, who rely on equipment for rehabilitation, can benefit from physical therapist printing customized and inexpensive assistive technologies such as grips, braces, and handles during appointments. A 3D printer and the web-based program Google Sketch Up will be used to design and build objects for physical therapist to assist their patients. Frequent interviews and design sessions with physical therapists will be conducted to determine the effectiveness of this approach.
When did you join the McNair program?
How did you find out about McNair?
I was interning in the Information systems lab in summer 2012 and met a student who was a McNair scholar. The opportunities he told me about made me interested in becoming a McNair scholar, particularly since it involved research.
What have you gained from being a McNair scholar?
I have learned to prioritize my time in terms of conducting research and being a scholar at the same time. I have had the opportunity to have a little glimpse of what graduate school is about, exploring the potential of researching and deciding what career path I want to take.
What is your most recent (or most interesting) independent research project?
My most recent independent research project deals with assistive technology and older adults. Working hand in hand with physical therapists to print customize and inexpensive assistive technologies for older adults during appointments and rehabilitation by using 3D printers.
How did you find your mentor for this project?
My mentor hired me to intern with her in the IS lab in summer 2012 while I was in an independent studies class helping my professor with her research. I have been researching with her help ever since.
How did you know this was the project you wanted to do?
My mentor came up with the idea of conducting research with a physical therapist designing and building 3D models to assist older adults. I have done similar research in the past dealing with both older adults and 3D printers. Having the opportunity to conduct research in a similar and familiar field this time around incorporating a physical therapist made me know this is exactly what I want to do for my research project. It is particularly helpfu since I have an interest in becoming a physical therapist one day.
How much time do you put into it?
I dedicate at least four hours a day to my research during the summer.
What academic background did you have before you started?
I had experience interning in the IS lab and getting tutorials on how to use 3D printers and giving demos on how the printer works. Majoring in a field of older adults gave me the necessary background and familiarity for my research.
How much did your mentor help you with your research?
My mentor is always there when I need help and is more than willing to answer any question I have. She challenges me to be a scholar, think outside the box, and push myself harder for success.
How does your research relate to your work in other classes?
My research in particular relates to my major, which is aging services. The research has also helped me to understand and provide for the needs of older adults.
What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
Research will open the doors to many opportunities in your career paths. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and don’t give up when you feel challenged. Research paves a way to network with people who might be in your field or outside your field who can link you to someone else in your field. Conducting research also shows graduate schools that you dedicate your time to something challenging and meaningful. Research on the other hand is not for everyone, find something you have a passion for and that you see yourself doing for the rest of your life.
What are your career goals?
After graduating from undergraduate studies, I plan on going straight to graduate school for a master’s and a Ph.D.