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    Hi there everyone,

    I’m Robert Zacharias, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. I teach a semester-length course called Intro to Physical Computing where students learn how to use the Arduino electronics prototyping platform to build interactive devices.

    For the semester’s final project, student groups interview and build assistive devices for people living with disabilities, whom I call our “design clients.” Normally we partner with a local disability-community organization to help connect us with community members here in southwestern Pennsylvania, but this semester we’ve come up a few clients short. Since the client interactions are conducted remotely, though, we don’t need to be limited to our geographic region when finding design clients. That’s where you come in!

    If you:

    • self-describe as a member of the disability community,
    • would like the opportunity to work (remotely) with enthusiastic, talented college students this semester, and
    • are comfortable speaking about your own life and experiences with those students,

    I’d love to talk with you about joining our course as a client. Our first scheduled meeting is quite soon—next Wednesday, March 31st, so time is of the essence.

    Please see this summary writeup I made to read more and see if we might be a good match: https://courses.ideate.cmu.edu/60-223/s2021/client 2

    And you’re welcome to forward this opportunity to anybody you think might be interested.

    Thanks in advance, and wishing everyone a lovely weekend,

    Robert Zacharias


    Hi @rzachari,

    Our local therapists and rehab engineers in SE Michigan have expressed a need for a voice recorder similar in concept to the https://www.ablenetinc.com/bigmack/. Even though it’s not for a specific student, it could be a good project.

    The voice recorder/speaker unit should be independent so it can be used with any switch. The switches often need to be mounted by children’s heads so a separate switch is preferable.

    The device should make it easy for parents, educators, and medical professionals to easily record custom messages as needed. Some commonly used sayings could be prerecorded, possibly by celebrities.

    There are inexpensive voice recording buttons on Amazon/eBay but the audio quality is poor.


    Hi @brentcourson,

    Thanks for getting back to me. An important part of the design challenge for our students is coming up with the proposed solution to a client’s difficulty, one which is entirely customized to them. And while I let clients know that they are welcome to come in to the course with a particular problem they may want solved, and may even have an envisioned solution for that problem, the hope is that they will allow *students* the freedom to conduct a meaningful design interview, determine for themselves what sort of problem they’d like to attempt to solve, and cook up their own custom solution.

    If you are in touch with any members of the disability community in Michigan who you think might be willing to participate in this semester’s class, I’d really appreciate if you could pass along my project introduction message to them.




    Hello Professor Zacharias. I forwarded your message to my colleague, Christina Chamberlain, out of Pittsburgh.


    Hi there Ms. Taber,

    I was able to recruit one remote participant through the internet, and at this point in the semester, I won’t be able to add any more. That being said, I’ll look forward to being in touch with Ms. Chamberlain for possible future semester collaborations, so thank you for putting us in touch. Tech Owl certainly seems like a useful organization to be connected with (and I hadn’t even heard of them before) so the connection is very appreciated.



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