Student Work in Lemelson

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Student Work

Students at Lemelson pursue work in a variety of fields, such as assistive technology, appropriate technology, and design. Using our fabrication shop; electronics lab; blacksmithing and welding shop; and design facilities, the Lemelson Center for Design can help students realize nearly any project they can envision. Below are examples of projects that students have created using the LCD.

Assistive Technology/Universal Design Projects


This assistive device was designed to allow a single-leg amputee to use a foot pedal to drum. Students Matt Lorenz and Julian Groeli worked closely with professional drummer Richie LePore to develop this project. The team went through many designs before they decided upon the current version. It is a modified seating system that uses a cable to transfer power to the mallet. The current development enables the user to simply roll up to the drum set and begin playing. By eliminating the somewhat physically taxing process of transferring from seat to seat, it reserves the drummer’s energy for playing.

Retrofittable Rowing Wheelchair

Josh Prescott’s ergonomically designed rowing wheelchair drive allows the occupant to move more efficiently, safely, and with the capability of greater speeds, but through variable gearing it also allows the occupant to get more torque than conventional push rims. It also affords the luxury of individual right and left brakes to facilitate stopping and steering. This system is unique in that it can be attached to a range of standard wheelchairs. The system is composed of two gearboxes, each one attached to either side of a conventional wheelchair. Josh improved his proof-of-concept prototype with feedback from wheelchair users; for his second prototype he narrowed the gearboxes extensively, and installed a functioning system to change gears. In fall 2003, Josh was invited to display his second prototype at the Inventors Expo at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

Racing Stroller

A competitive runner looking for an adult racing stroller so that she could compete in marathons along with her sister, who has a disability, found that none of the commercially available strollers suited her sisters needs. A Hampshire alum, she enlisted the help of students Prateek Rajbhandari, Ismahil Olanrewaju, and Diana Pun, who, with the assistance of LATDC staff, developed an adaptive prototype. The commercial strollers were too heavy, lacked good suspension, and required the rider to be in a sitting position. The LATDC model includes better suspension, a light-weight frame made from aircraft-grade plywood, and a seat that allows the rider to be in a reclined position.

Learning Template

Megan Briggs designed a template to help children with learning disabilities who tend to have trouble focusing on one part of an entire worksheet. The tool is designed as a book-sized tray into which a worksheet can be slid. The top of this tray has sliding pieces that allow for the majority of the worksheet to be covered up, while exposing the current section through an opening. Once students have completed one section, they can then slide the pieces to expose the next section. Accompanying the attention shift from section to section with this motor transition should also help the child work through worksheets with less frustration.

Accessible Snowboard

The accessible snowboard was conceived several years ago by students enthusiastic about snowboarding who wanted to open up this sport to people with disabilities. The accessible snowboard has evolved through several major prototypes: an initial PVC pipe construction, an aluminum design, a sleek and lightweight molded carbon fiber design, and now a design that features a lower seating system attached to a disk, which helps with stability while carving turns.

Assistance Dog Gear

Many puppies fail the training procedure required to become seeing-eye dogs because of their fear of staircases and street grates. This unique solution is a piece of furniture to be used in the training kennels, designed to get the pups used to these obstacles before the natural behavioral onset of fear. This project was a Division III thesis project for Kathryn James, whose work in animal behavioral studies led to further development and testing of the devices with a national seeing-eye dog organization. Since then, Kathryn has completed testing the equipment, working with approximately 600 pups. Kathryn has secured funding to publish research results for distribution in the future.

Beanie Bottom

A beanie bottom is a bean-filled seat cushion that acts as a sensory aid and helps children with physical, emotional, or learning disabilities be more attentive and focused in classroom settings. Several versions of Candace’s beanie bottom creation have been tested with excellent results in a classroom of children with disabilities in Kansas. It consists of a nylon pocket (that resists water and most other liquids in the event that something gets spilled on it) with a zippered opening to be filled with beans (creating a "nubby" sensation). This nylon pocket can be inserted inside a cotton pouch that is washable and is secured with Velcro. The "nubby" sensation helps to stimulate children who are withdrawn, making them better able to concentrate and pay attention to their teacher, as well as interact with their peers. It also aids children who are attention deficit, fidgety, or hyperactive, making them use more muscles to balance themselves, sit up straighter, and pay attention. These bean-filled pockets, placed on the laps of withdrawn children, can help create for them a sense of place, making them feel more anchored to their surroundings.

Gemini Tandem Trike

This invention is a three-wheeled recumbent tandem tricycle designed to give a person with disabilities, who is not able to ride other cycles, the feel and experience of riding. This innovative design permits the rider with a disability maximum control over the tandem, to the degree that he or she is capable, while the able-bodied rider provides the remainder of the cycling power. This design makes innovative headway into the field by keeping the riding experience for people with disabilities first priority. The Gemini is a Division III thesis project designed by Noah Schulz.


The Segway HT was developed by DEKA, Co. as a personal mobility device for the general population. Mounting this product, however, requires a high level of independent stability and balance often lacking in individuals with limited lower body strength of mobility. To address this problem, Ben Einstein created the SegStable attachment, designed to keep the platform of the vehicle parallel to the ground as the user mounts or dismounts the vehicle. The stabilization system consists of front and rear motor operated feet that extend to the ground to stabilize the mounting platform whatever the terrain; it is powered by the Segway’s existing on-board power supply.

Appropriate Technology Projects

Bicycle Ambulance

Lemelson faculty and staff supported and collaborated with a recent alumnus, Aaron Wieler, who spent a year living in Namibia, Africa. He teamed up with the Bicycle Empowerment Network to establish a bicycle ambulance-building facility in Namibia’s capital city of Windhoek. Together with BEN Namibia, Wieler has designed, prototyped, field tested, and manufactured bicycle ambulances to distribute to the regional health network of rural clinics and hospitals. Hampshire College purchased one of these bicycle ambulances to present to the His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who addressed the regional community on May 9, 2007.

Pearl Millet Thresher - Namibia

Alumnus Aaron Weiler, while in Namibia building bicycle ambulances, observed that one of the local crops, a grain called mahangu, or pearl millet, was being threshed using an extremely labor-intensive process, and proposed that Lemelson’s “Appropriate Design in the Developing World” class work on designing a thresher that would work specifically for this grain and reduce the time and effort required to process it. The size and shape of the grain must be considered in the design, as well as the ease of removing the inedible husk from the millet kernel, and the resources available for construction. Students have been working on modifying an existing design, which uses electricity, to run using pedals or a hand-crank, enabling it to be built at far lower cost.

Pedal Powered Grain Mill

Lydia Moffet designed and built this grain grinder to be used in a start-up bakery that she is developing in Maine. The mill, purchased from a local vendor, is powered by a stationary exercise bike via a pulley system, and can grind any kind of grain. Although it is not large enough to meet the needs of most bakery businesses, the grinder has been put to use grinding spelt berries, and Lydia has received feedback from customers indicating that they prefer bread containing the home-ground grain as opposed to the industrially-milled variety.

Whirlwind Wheelchair Manual Leverdrive

Lemelson’s collaboration with Whirlwind Wheelchair International continues as the newly developed manual lever wheelchair drives designed and prototyped last year continue to be honed, tested, and fabricated by the most efficient method possible. These devices will be built in whirlwind-style fabrication shops globally and sold for profit, and increase the consumer’s ability to find employment.

Algae Photobioreactor

The Tim Harkness Fund for Invention grants awards for innovative work in applied design and invention, especially in areas of sustainability and renewable energy. One of this year’s Harkness Grant projects is an algae photobioreactor, developed by students Jon Spencer and Mida McKenrick. The photobioreactor is a device that stimulates continuous growth of algae, whose accelerated photosynthetic process and high oil content make it an ideal source for renewable biofuel and for neutralizing the effects of carbon dioxide emissions produced by fossil fuels. In the first iteration of this project, the algae was cycled through a series of pipes which exposed it to alternating periods of light and darkness, and infuse it with carbon dioxide to stimulate continuous growth. Jon and Mida have since developed a new model, shown below, which uses multiple containers and a pump to infuse gas into the algae solution, and they continue to test their model to improve its efficiency.



Greasecar Vegetable Fuel Systems is a booming start-up company founded and run by LATDC alumnus Justin Carven. Justin, working with a team of fellow students, developed a modified diesel engine that could run on vegetable oil. With the recent trend of gasoline price hikes, Greasecar has been expanding at an incredible rate, increasing its sales tenfold and tripling its employees. The company, based in Easthampton, MA, has enjoyed national media on major television networks, in premier newspapers, and in numerous mainstream magazines. Find out more information at

RunAbout Cycles

Josh Kerson has established a successful business fabricating and selling human-electric hybrid vehicles, which were initially developed over a five year period at LATDC. The cycles, which are intended for the retirement, recreation, and commuter markets, are is fully suspended, three-wheeled recumbents that incorporate a small electric motor that provides proportional assistance equal to the pedaling effort. A unique feature is that a hand cranking system can easily replace pedals and cranks. This, along with the proportional power input from the electric motor, makes Josh's vehicle accessible to people with lower limb and/or fatigue disabilities. Photos and specs of Josh's cycles can be found at RunAbout's website,


Social Entrepreneurship Aid and Resource Center at Hampshire (SEARCH)

Founded in 2008 by Hampshire students Ananda Valenzuela, Asa Hyde, Brendan Sweeney, Sam Judelson, and Henry Hyde, the program aids members of the Hampshire community in their pursuit of social entrepreneurship and the application of social entrepreneurial concepts. The center provides students with educational resources, seminars, workshops, internships, sources of funding, and mentoring opportunities to help them create their own social enterprises. Its mission is to provide members of the Hampshire College community with the tools, skills, and resources to learn more about social entrepreneurship and create their own special project or social venture.

All in Play

LATDC alums Jeremie Spitzer and Paul Silva, while students at LATDC, launched All in Play (formerly Zform), a company that creates fully accessible, high-quality, online games designed to promote social interaction and communication. These games use the latest audio, networking, and software technologies to allow people to play regardless of visual impairment or geographical location. All in Play breaks down social barriers between visually impaired and sighted individuals by providing a compelling interactive environment where visual impairment is not a factor and the playing field is level. More information on All in Play's products is available at


The idea for WonderRoot, a non-profit that seeks to increase fine arts mentoring and learning opportunities for disadvantaged neighborhoods in Atlanta, was envisioned by a group of friends who grew up in the city. Hampshire student Witt Wisebram, through his Division III study and LATDC’s Social Entrepreneurship class, has helped his group’s vision become a reality: WonderRoot has forged several partnerships with artists and a community center, hosting a photography show for an artist displaced by Hurricane Katrina and bringing art activities to Youth for Tomorrow, an inner city mentorship program. Its website at allows the organization to keep community members apprised of current events and developments as well as providing a medium for communication. Witt hopes to see WonderRoot collaborate with the state and public school system to give students in Atlanta many more opportunities to explore the world of artistic expression.

Little Guitar Works

The ergonomic guitar was conceived and designed by Hampshire student Jerome Little. The neck of the guitar is constructed so that the fretboard and strings are rotated on the longitudinal axis of the neck. This positioning of the strings makes them easier to finger by reducing wrist tension. The innovative twist greatly reduces the risk of carpal tunnel and other repetitive motion injuries common to guitar players. With support from the Lemelson Program, Jerome Little received a patent for his invention in September 1999. Now a Hampshire alum, he has begun production and marketing of the ergonomic guitar stems through his new California-based start-up company, Little Guitar Works. The company’s range of products can be viewed at


Bike Design - Niall Gengler

Niall has been innovating his bicycle frame design and fabrication for several years. His work involves a planning-to-production process in which he conducts a careful analysis of a rider’s physical capabilities, riding style, and intended use of the bike, and designs the frame specifically to meet the person’s needs. The frames are made of steel alloys, with the specific type of tubing determined by the rider’s needs. The frame parts are mitered and tig-welded, and cable guides and bosses are brazed. Carbon fiber parts are epoxied onto the frame. Once all the parts are assembled, the frame is realigned, as heat from the welding process can distort it somewhat. Niall continues working in the bike industry, and as an alum has been taking advantage of the Lemelson shop facilities to experiment and improve his designs, building his frames and portfolio, and assisting current Hampshire students in the bicycle frame building class. His work can be seen on his Web site, where he also accepts commissions for custom cycles and metalwork:

Tropical PC

Developed by Ben Einstein, Sarah Wodin-Schwartz, Caitlyn Worthington-Kirsch, and Asmaa Maloul, personal computers (PCs) have traditionally been designed for use in clean, air-conditioned spaces in industrialized countries with steady electrical power. Less developed countries in tropical environments present hazards such as high levels of airborne dust, "dirty" electrical power and hot, humid operating environments. Additional factors such as bumpy roads expose the products to high shock and vibration loads during transportation. The goal of this project, a collaboration between Hampshire and Smith students, is to develop a PC enclosure that provides a dust-free sealed environment for the sensitive elements such as the motherboard and hard drives. The primary design elements include selecting a suitable motherboard and related PC components for compact packaging, designing the dust tolerant PC package, developing a cooling system, creating an accompanying industrial design for product recognition, and fabricating and testing a prototype to demonstrate functionality. Aavid Thermalloy will integrate the design and ideas from this project to develop a commercial product for manufacture and sale in tropical countries.

Sculptural Shelving

Many people display works of art on their bookcases, but it is rare to find a shelving unit with built-in sculpture. This is the subject of Ellen Bainer’s division III work: a set of shelves that incorporate sculptural scenes. The structure, which is made of wood planks that are steamed and then bent into organic wave-like pieces, houses several sculptures made of wire, plastic, and glass, which turn the case from passive furniture into dynamic art. Ellen constructed not only the piece itself, but the steaming device and the apparatus to warp the boards into the curved shapes.

Sculptural Dresses

Hannah Shaw’s Division III is a collection of dresses that explores and bridges the divide between art and fashion. The dresses, all of which can be worn, are fabricated using diverse materials including fabric, wire, tape, paper, plastic, and rope. Inspired by observing her surroundings, Hannah attempted to transpose these images--whether they be of a construction site, a tree, or a chainlink fence--in dress form. She used the Lemelson shop to construct some of her pieces, which contained wire, rivets, and other industrial materials. Hannah's dress designs are viewable online at

Memorial Sundial

Commissioned as a memorial piece for John Reid, a former Hampshire professor who passed away, and designed by Jacob Lefton; the sundial is made from steel pieces that he forged and then welded together. The numbers on the sundial were gilded, and the entire piece was lacquered to weatherproof it. The sundial was then installed on the lawn in front of the Cole Science Center greenhouse.

The Metal Sculptures of Kamil Peters

Kamil spent the summer of 2007 interning with a blacksmith in Baltimore, MD, where he learned a unique and beautiful style of metalworking, and created a few original pieces in addition to assisting with the construction of the master smith’s sculptures. He has continued to hone his craft, making use of found objects such as propane tanks and pipes, which he cuts and forges into sculptures of elephants, angels, masks, and abstract pieces.

Box Sculpture

This sculpture by Nathan Tobiason originated from a class assignment, where students were asked to create a sculpture out of an 8’x1”x8” board. Nathan chose to cut the board into small dowels and then nailed them into a cube-shaped latticework, which he spray painted. To achieve the cubic shape he used a box mold, which is a cube shape that is open on one side to allow for placement of the dowels.


The Kinetic Sculptures of Adrian Carleton

Adrian Carlton's two sculptures, one large and one small, are of similar construction: they each have a forge welded steel frame with a machine- and hand-sewn fabric cover that is painted over. The small sculpture is motorized, containing a microcontroller attached to a light sensor for input and a motor for output. The sensor causes the sculpture to activate when it is dark, simulating the behavior of nocturnal animals.


Comfort Creatures

Companion animals have been shown to be very therapeutic for many people. Some people are unable to care for a living animal, however, so Maya Gounard, Eli Brown, and Sam Flescher developed a "comfort creature," a robotic device that simulates the movements of an animal. The comfort creatures have a metal mesh frame that houses the three motors and microcontroller that directs its movements. The foam interior is covered in a plush material that simulates fur. The device is touch sensitive with two settings--calm and excited--and when the creature is touched or held, it responds with a more excited behavior. Maya is developing a second creature that is based on the same concept but will have a different construction.

Monkey Mother Surrogate

Ben Kuriloff and Matt Cohen collaborated with Ina Rommeck, a visiting researcher from a primate center in California, to build an interactive robot that would provide nurturing support for infant monkeys who are separated from their mothers. Ben and Matt built a box with a furry rope suspended from the top, which the infant monkey can grab. The rope is connected to a spring attached to a servomotor. When the baby monkey pulls the rope, the spring extends and activates a switch, causing the rope to move up and down, simulating the movement of a walking mother. This prototype device is being sent to California for further refinement.

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