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The California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) Interdisciplinary Team won first place at Source America Design Challenge in Washington D.C.

The Source America Design Challenge (previously the Ability One Design Challenge) is an engineering competition to address employment issues faced by individuals with disabilities and design workplace technology for people with disabilities.

CSULA’s multidisciplinary team was recognized for its innovative device called ‘Straight to the Punch,’ a solution that improves the assembly processes for two kinds of hole punchers. The team partnered with FVO Solutions, Inc. (FVO), a nonprofit agency that employs people with disabilities, to develop the solution.

The team’s improvements were implemented into FVO’s work processes and have resulted in the improved safety, ergonomics, productivity, and production time for their employees with disabilities. The team worked closely with FVO management and their employees with disabilities throughout the project.

California State University faculty coach Dr. Paul Liu said, “We were blessed in our project preparation and delivery, and I am truly proud of all my students in the team,” he said.

CSULA’s “Straight To the Punch” project included technology major Filiberto Garcia, Jr., team captain Shi-Hsin Frank Wang, a mechanical engineering major, Rodney Paguyo (TECH), Erick Vegegas (TECH), and electrical engineering major Mabel Luu.

“Throughout the Design Challenge, we’ve been able to apply what we’ve learned in engineering school, but more than that, we’ve been able to gain a new perspective,” said Shi-Hsin Frank Wang, CSULA team member. “Life isn’t about the paycheck; it’s about engagement and service to others.”

Each student received an iPad Mini 3, suit and shirt as team uniform and a scholarship toward their tuition. All prizes came from the kind support of Northrop Grumman Corporation (NGC).

“NGC has always been our best higher education supporter from industry,” Liu said, adding “I would also thank you for your friendship, phone calls and emails encouraging our students to dedicate their best toward supporting workers with a disability. My students’ value system have been changed and enhanced because of engagement of this segment of the community often forgotten.”

The team’s sponsor and champion was Tizoc Loza, who is responsible for the development and implementation of the Small Business Innovation Research Program, which supports the transfer of technology to small businesses and universities. He also manages the Northrop Grumman Mentor-Protégé program.

Loza is a 2015 winner of the Black Engineer of the Year Award (BEYA) for Corporate Promotion of Education.

He works with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges/Universities and other Minority Institutions to identify scholarship awards, research, and development programs and subcontracting opportunities. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and International Business from California State University, Long Beach, and a master’s with the emphasis in Supply Chain from Strayer University.

Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are one of the largest sources of early-stage capital for innovative small companies in the United States. These programs allow US-owned and operated small businesses to engage in federal research and development (R&D) that has a strong potential for commercialization.

Early-stage, health and life science companies are creating a wide range of innovative technologies that improve health and save lives.

Source America Design Challenge believes in everyone’s ability to work. The design challenge helps create tools for successful employment.

Participants in the annual College Design Challenge step out of the confines of a classroom to devise an innovative solution for a nonprofit agency that employs people with disabilities. During two semesters, the students work together to develop a process, device, system, or software to overcome a workplace barrier. This hands-on service learning opportunity enhances the students’ engineering, communication, writing, math, presentation, and social skills while helping the community.

High school and college students partner with an organization which employs people with disabilities or individual with a disability to invent a process, device, system or software for a more productive work environment. This service learning opportunity develops engineering, communication, writing, math, presentation, and social skills while helping the community and competing for cash prizes.

“Students from around the country rose to the challenge this year to develop technology that transforms lives,” said Steven Soroka, the president and CEO of Source America. “Simply put, the Design Challenge creates tools for successful employment and provides some of our best and brightest college students the opportunity to learn more about the disability community. By improving productivity for people with disabilities in the workplace, these students are helping us get one step closer to the day when every person with a disability who wants a job can have a job and be successful at it.”

This year’s winners also included:
Second place: Ohio University, Athens, Ohio
Third place: United States Military Academy, West Point, NY

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