Duke students' device to help disabled workers wins award

Posted June 22, 2011 1:33 p.m. EDT

— Four Duke University students took second place in a national competition to create technology that helps disabled people perform better in the workplace.

Michael Chao, Ian King, Esther Lee and Shengnan Xiang won $5,000 in the AbilityOne Network Design Challenge.

They created the Easyshrink Heat Gun Safety Device in conjunction with OE Enterprises, a nonprofit community vocational rehabilitation program for adults with disabilities.

By pushing one button, a worker can set off a heat gun in an insulated box that strikes a bottle set on a motorized turntable for a preset amount of time.

In tests, the device reduced the chance of burn injuries, increased output quality and increased productivity by employees with significant disabilities by 180 percent.