Bram Ligon and his fellow teammates knew they had created a good product when they submitted the Cube XL to this year’s SourceAmerica Design Challenge. They sure didn’t think they would walk away as a top prize winner though.
“We just submitted saying we’ll see what happens with it,” Ligon said. “We were really happy to just be able to showcase a wonderful product.”
The team from Lawrence Technological University won the college division of the challenge, which is for those who create workplace solutions that improve the jobs and lives of people with disabilities.
Ligon, who went to Rochester Adams High School, was in a class called Entrepreneurial Engineering Design Studio last fall when he first heard about it. The course was structured around developing a product specifically for what could be submitted to the competition, even though submitting something was completely optional.
“More importantly, the class taught valuable engineering skills that were immeasurable to any textbook work you could do,” he said.
This class also let them see their products being used in the real world. In the Cube XL’s case, at Services to Enhance Potential (STEP) in Dearborn.
In layman’s terms, what the employees at STEP do is assemble struts, which are the little u-shaped clamps that get attached to the ceiling that hold pipes. While doing their research the team – which they called LABB (a combination of the member’s initials) – discovered that the people assembling them were having some difficulty doing just that.
“If you have low dexterity impairment in your hands or only use of one hand, the process of trying to hold the whole piece together…You really need both hands to do this operation,” Ligon said.
The team hoped to develop a product that would make that process easier and less painful for employees. Enter the Cube XL, which is a little platform that holds the bolt in place and allows the user to assemble piece by piece with only one hand.
Everything is held stationary on their work stations by magnets, and employees simply add the parts on to it before twisting the final nut of it. It's already set to the specifications and height of the nut being put in the bolt. Then they put it in a box and are done.
For Ligon, who is studying mechanical engineering with a minor in mathematics and a concentration in alternative energy systems, being able to be a part of something that would impact the lives of others was his greatest motivation for entering the challenge.
“When you go to engineering school...the main focus of engineering is not all the business aspects of it,” Ligon said. “It’s really designing something that is going to work in a simple and not painful way.”
The Lawerence Tech junior has always loved the idea of developing things, even as a kid.
Ligon plans on getting his master’s degree after graduating from Lawerence Tech, with a focus on wind power and solar energy. He hopes to work in research and application of alternative energy systems in first-world and third-world countries that need developing grids for electricity to get to people.
Much like his future plans, the SourceAmerica Design Challenge allowed Ligon to put some good in the world, and help those who truly need it.
“The idea of being able to develop something that helps people and being able to really see the effects of this impacting their lives and making it easier…was quite awesome,” he said.
Photo: Laurie Tennent