• Feb. 11, 2022

    STEM team earns special recognition in national challenge

    REACH teamA team from Upper St. Clair was one of just 18 high school STEM teams from throughout the United States to earn recognition in the REACH Challenge. Receiving Special Recognition was the team of Priyasha Itani, Aditri Thakur, Anisha Patel, Ansh Goyal, Danny Shanholtzer, Priyanka Palayekar and Susan Liu.

    The Upper St. Clair students worked collaboratively to solve the design challenge Shoe Support, to assist individuals with putting on a shoe when faced with limited foot mobility. To better understand the issue, the team enlisted the expertise of classmate Danny Shanholtzer, who faces physical challenges and navigates the high school via a wheelchair and forearm crutches.

    “Our project made it easier for our user-expert to put on his shoes. Danny can now put on his shoes with less effort and less external assistance,” the team wrote in their technical paper. “We want to further develop our prototype to a point where Danny will be able to put on his shoes by himself.”

    Watch the USCHS team’s video to learn more about the Shoe Support

    Award-winning teams will receive STEM grants, a special banner to display at their schools, and/or supplies to support their STEM program from Harbor Freight and Maker Maven. For its Special Recognition, Upper St. Clair’s team earned a $100 Harbor Freight Gift Card along with an awards banner.

    In addition to helping to solve a challenge for Danny and others, the REACH Challenge was enlightening for the Upper St. Clair students.

    “The REACH Challenge has taught us the importance of working as a team and the importance of accessibility,” they wrote. “Before this project, we saw putting on shoes as a daily, trivial task; however, after working with Danny, we realized that there is still a way to go to create a more inclusive and effective world.”

    REACH Challenge, sponsored by the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA), is an impactful Adaptive & Assistive Technology (AT) design-thinking project for middle school, high school, and college level STEM programs. Teachers are provided with lesson plans and activities on empathy, user-centered design, prototyping and more, to lead their students in using their STEM skills to REACH a member of their community who has a challenge to overcome. This innovative project shows teachers how they can help students use their STEM skills for social good, making a real-world difference in the lives of those around them.

    In this third year for REACH Challenge, teams created a wide variety of AT solutions, including the Power Pivot to help senior adults with mobility issues, a Thermal Kinetic Therapeutic Glove for a teen with Raynaud's, which causes decreased blood flow to the fingers, and The Able-Table for preschoolers with fine motor skills challenges.

    “I am absolutely blown away by these students’ innovations,” said Kelly Dooley, ITEEA executive director. “We couldn’t be more excited to honor these teams for their accomplishments.”

    This year’s award winners hail from 11 states: Washington, New York, Georgia, Hawaii, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kansas, Delaware, Florida, New Jersey and Massachusetts. The students and teachers have described their experience as “heart-warming,” “profound,” and “invaluable.”

    ITEEA represents more than 35,000 secondary technology and engineering educators in the United States alone who are developers, administrators, and university personnel in the field representing all levels of education. ITEEA corporate members are comprised of leading technology companies. ITEEA's mission is that "Technology and Engineering Bring STEM to Life!” ITEEA seeks to meet the professional needs and interests of members, as well as to improve public understanding of technology, innovation, design, and engineering education and its contributions.