KNOXVILLE–Rupy Sawhney, Weston Fulton Professor and head of the Department of Industrial Engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is used to presenting his students with tough questions. A year ago, he presented them with this challenge: find a way to help Edi Deaver, a UT alumnus with cerebral palsy, be more mobile.
“He wasn’t able to get from his wheelchair to his bed and often had to sleep with his shoes on,” said Sawhney. “I said to my graduate students ‘How can we help him?’ And they got together and came up with a plan.”
A team of five graduate students, led by Lavanya Marella, researched how Deaver’s body moved and then customized an over-the-bed lift system to accommodate his movements. Sawhney used research funds to purchase the system that was adapted for Deaver’s needs.
“We have a mission in our department, which is to be relevant to our community,” said Sawhney. “We take state-of-the-art research and bring it to the community to help the community. That is our purpose.”