Center for Assistive Technology and Environmental Access

Assistive Glove Wins TechSAge Design Competition

Glove wins design competition.

By Malrey Head Atlanta, GA

The TechSAge Design Competition, created to guide students in developing technologies to empower healthy aging for all, selected an assistive glove to aid seniors in gardening as the top winner. TechSAge is a research center within the Center for Assistive Technology & Environmental Access.

With entries representing a large number of international institutions, the jury selected “Releaf,” by Justin Chang, Phillip Chang, and Dan Sipzner from the University of Pennsylvania as winners in the Active Lifestyle category. It also was awarded the overall first-place prize.

"Releaf” is an assistive-wearable glove designed to promote active gardening among seniors by increasing grip strength and reducing hand fatigue. The design featured a leather glove that uses cables, servomechanisms, and a sensor controlled by the pinky to engage and disengage active assistance when gripping tools.


The 2017 competition wrapped up its 2nd year with winners in three categories. It was a two-phase international event that launched in November 2016 with the theme “Design Is Ability,” highlighting the potential for design to empower individuals with disabilities to overcome challenges with everyday activities.

In the competition’s first year, industrial design student and CATEA researcher Elaine Liu won third place for best design. She designed an app to help aging travelers navigate airports.

The goal of the competition is to encourage students to develop innovative technologies that can promote a better living condition for older adults aging with disabilities by focusing on universal design.

Finalists were tasked to develop further, prototype, and test their concepts during Phase II, and competed to win their category and receive a cash prize of $500 (4 awards, 1 for each category). Of the category winners, the top scoring submission also had the chance to win the first-place prize and receive an additional prize of $500 (total of $1,000).

"This year marks a second consecutive success in elevating design through testing principles of Universal Design with the aging population,” said Dr. Claudia B. Rebola, associate professor at the Rhode Island School of Design and director of the competition. She is also a former Georgia Tech faculty member.

“Through this contest, students get to understand that design activities cannot be separated from abilities; design IS ability, and creative technologies can emerge from looking at disabilities as a source of inspiration for great designs for all.”

Building on last year’s four categories, Health at Home, Social Connectedness, Active Lifestyle, and Community Mobility, an international group of students entered their concept designs by March 1, 2017. A selected number of entries, judged by experts, moved to the second phase of the competition.

Phase I judges were recruited from industry and academia to represent diverse areas of expertise, from industrial design, to aging, to human-computer interaction. Judges included representatives from IDEO, Frog Design, MakeTools, Ximedica, Simple C, to RISD, University of San Francisco, Olin College, and Georgia Tech.

The competition is organized by the TechSAge Research Engineering Rehabilitation Center (RERC) and sponsored by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The final judging took place during the TechSAge Advisory Board Meeting at the Center for Assistive Technology & Environmental Access (CATEA), where the design competition posters remain on display.

Others winners and their categories:


Project "Nettle" designed by Audrey Fox, an MFA candidate in Design and Technology at Parsons School of Design in New York City, won top category Social Connectedness.

Fox focused on designing interfaces which do not require glowing screens or lengthy training to comprehend, but instead working naturally with the way information is absorbed by the senses and physically tying into familiar forms. She proposed "Nettle," an intuitive, screenless interface for connecting people using a teapot and mug and employing the beloved rituals of making tea. Two people in different places can communicate using a web-connected teapot, which uses the pouring of hot water to signal a user’s availability to have a conversation over tea.


Project MODU designed by Lamar Pi, a senior in industrial design at San Francisco State University won top category in Health at Home. MODU is a customizable, modular tray that attaches to walkers or wheelchairs to provide individuals with mobility impairment with a stable, multipurpose surface for activities and storage.

No winners were chosen this year in the Community Mobility. There were several entries for Phase I, but no entries made the cut for Phase II.

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