Date: Monday, June 21, 2021
Category: Member News
Seong-Hee Yoon is a Senior Rehabilitation Engineer at the University of Michigan Rehabilitation Engineering Program and Director of Technology & Innovation at the University of Michigan Adaptive & Inclusive Sports Experience.
Tell us about yourself. How did you come to RESNA?
My first introduction to RESNA was as a student. My senior design team from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill entered the 2012 RESNA Student Design Challenge (SDC) with a Braille educational toy, at the time named “Alphabraille,” now called “Braillebot.” That was the beginning of it all!
My team ended up winning the prize for “Technology Most Likely to be Commercialized,” sponsored by the Center for Translation of Rehabilitation Engineering Advances and Technology (TREAT). The prize came with a cash award and a 5-week internship at their engineering facility. I did the internship and worked with the TREAT engineers in order to move the project forward (article for that experience is on RESNA’s website here). As of 2017, the device is commercialized and available online at braillebot.com!
After my initial introduction to RESNA through the SDC, I started volunteering my time as a judge and now I am the chair of the competition. In addition, I have been involved in the Rehabilitation Engineers & Technologists PSG as a member, vice-chair, and currently chair. Now, I am proud to serve on the Board of Directors.
What does the Student Design Challenge offer to students and the industry?
The Student Design Challenge offers to students an opportunity to highlight their innovations to a group of top of the line experts in the field of Assistive Technology (AT). RESNA is the premier organization when it comes to expertise in AT. By submitting to the competition, each student gets a chance to impress and connect the best in the field.
The students also get a chance to network with their peers who have similar passions and interests. This is a very niche field, so finding peers who share their love for AT can make a huge difference in their careers – at least it has for me.
What is planned for the Student Design Challenge at the conference?
We have a live judging session for the finalist teams at the conference on Thursday, July 8 at 9am ET. All teams will also present their projects at the Developer’s Showcase on Friday, July 9 at 2:30pm ET. Lastly, of course we get to celebrate the student teams who win a prize at the Awards Ceremony on Friday July 9th at 5:30pm ET. I would like to note that the prize monies are exciting - $1000 for 1st place, $700 for 2nd, and $300 for 3rd!
Were there any notable trends in Student Design Challenge submissions this year?
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on higher education, we anticipated that students would not be as far along with their projects due to lab closures or remote work. To accommodate this crazy year, we opened up the competition to allow simulations and early prototypes.
However, the majority of teams submitted finished or close–to-finished products. I think that is a testament to the adaptability of students in our field. Even before hitting the career journey, our students are showing signs of being great AT professionals by “making it work” even during a global pandemic world filled with virtual interactions.
What can students learn from attending RESNA 2021?
Students can learn about assistive technology and the industry through the many educational workshops and by networking with professionals in the field. Last year, I loved that the virtual platform made conversations with people more accessible. Of course it is great to see your friends and colleagues in person (and share a hug!), but sometimes at a live conference you can feel really rushed to get to everything and connect with everyone. With the virtual platform, the travel time from each session is just a click of a button. Students can take their time to really connect with others using the messaging feature and continue the conversation even after the conference.
Do you have anything to share about the Engineers & Technologists Professional Specialty Group?
We are currently brainstorming ways to get more involved in hackathons and ways for us to be more involved in raising up future engineers and technologists by getting the students connected to our PSG, so send any engineering students our way!
Seong-Hee Yoon, ATP/RET
Senior Rehabilitation Engineer
UMAISE Director of Technology & Innovation
University of Michigan Rehabilitation Engineering Program
UMAISE (University of Michigan Adaptive & Inclusive Sports Experience)