PACT (Project for Assistive Canine Technology)
Six sophomore engineering students aspire to enhance the lives of people who use assistance dogs by designing specially tailored devices that will alleviate the strain of specific daily activities which are currently challenging to preform. This community does not receive the attention it deserves, largely due to its small numbers and the marginal opportunity for profit. PACT began as a major design project in Engineering Design, the introductory course taken by all engineering students. From there, with motivation from a dedicated professor, Dr. Beverly Jaeger, and the commitment of our peers, the project evolved into an independent, student-run research effort. Having met with two trained service dogs and their owners, we have learned much about how assistance dogs function, what they are capable of, and what is difficult for them and their human partners to do. A major aspect of the engineering design process is iteration, or continually revising the problem formulation as more information is gathered. Two assistance dogs and their owners are not representative of an entire population. Therefore, we put our initial designs aside and composed a survey which, pending approval by the Northeastern’s Institutional Review Board will be distributed through Kristin Hartness, executive director of Canines for Disabled Kids, Inc., to disabled individuals who use assistance dogs. We will use the results of the survey to either confirm or adjust our initial Needs Assessment. From there, we will design the devices. In order to anticipate future costs, we have received two Provosts’ Research Grants.