Improving the Workplace
York College engineering students are gaining applicable real-world experience by designing and building devices to benefit clients at Shadowfax, a local private, nonprofit company. Shadowfax supports individuals with disabilities in residential services, pre-vocational/life skills services and in finding a job/becoming members of their community.
Professors, Scott Kiefer, Ph.D., and James Moscola, Ph.D., led the projects in their capstone design classes with students Jake Bailey ’18 (Reading, PA), Anthony Bowlin ’18 (White Hall, MD), Brian Dunne ’18 (Collegeville, PA), Ashleen Hayes ’18 (New Castle, DE), and Amanda Redhouse ’18 (Bensalem, PA). Although the capstone class is a requirement for all engineering students to graduate, they do have the freedom to choose their project. Kiefer says Shadowfax was the top choice of students involved in this year’s project.
Kiefer explains, “The class itself has some specific course requirements. Some of these requirements are working together in a team and completing the design and build of an engineering project to meet a set of project specifications. Personally, I think it’s great for the students to actually be able to interact with the people who will be using the devices.”
The project allows for students to not only gain valuable experience in their area of study, but also use their skills to benefit the community. “Our team was provided an opportunity to help improve the workplace and work experience of someone in need,” said Bowlin. Initially, the professors will go with them to the business, but in order to build the device using an interactive process with design and testing, the students take the lead on their individual projects and return to speak with the client and modify their design based on feedback.
“Following the lead of the College, the Engineering Department has made a conscious effort for our capstone class to be community-minded, and Shadowfax fits very nicely into this mission,” says Kiefer.
One of this year’s most rewarding moments, Bailey recalls, was when they gave clients the first prototype. “They loved it so much, they wouldn’t let us take it back to the College after we asked to take it back for upgrades and repairs,” he said. The goal is to make devices that speed up the process for Shadowfax clients and help enhance their training.
“If we can manufacture a simple fixture or machine that’s going to reliably serve Shadowfax long-term, we can improve their productivity,” says Kiefer.
Kiefer and Moscola have been working with Shadowfax for three years and plan to continue collaboration in the capstone design class.