This Course at MIT

This Course at MIT pages are part of the OCW Educator initiative, which seeks to enhance the value of OCW for educators.

Course Overview

This page focuses on the course 6.811 Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology (PPAT) as it was taught by William Li, Grace Teo, and Prof. Robert Miller in Fall 2014.

PPAT is an interdisciplinary, project-based course in which small teams of students work closely with a person with a disability in the Cambridge area to design a device, piece of equipment, app, or other solution that helps the client live more independently. Over the course of the term, each team meets with its client, iterates through multiple prototypes, and learns about the challenges and realities of designing assistive technologies for people with disabilities. The course also includes lectures on principles of successful Assistive Technology design, perspectives from people with disabilities and Assistive Technology makers and users, design processes and human factors, and social, economic, and ethical perspectives on disability.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  1. Understand principles and complexities of Assistive Technology design and engineering
  2. Learn about the challenges and realities of people with disabilities and become equipped as an advocate
  3. Gain experience managing a team-based design/engineering project and working with a real client
 

Meet the Instructors

A picture instructors Grace Teo and William Li.

In the following video, the instructors introduce themselves and share how their interests and experiences led them to become involved with the course.

Instructor Interview: Meet the Educators

 

Instructor Insights

Instructor William Li sits in front of a long white table. He’s gesturing with one arm. There are two computer monitors on the table, along with a three dimensional object constructed out of cardboard.

In the following videos, William Li and Grace Teo describe various aspects of how they taught 6.811 Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology.

 

Student Insights

A young woman wearing glasses smiles during an interview while standing in a crowded room.

In the following videos, students share insights about their experiences in 6.811 Principles and Practice of Assistive Technology.

 

Curriculum Information

Prerequisites

Permission of instructor

Requirements Satisfied

6.811 satisfies one of two Advanced Undergraduate Study requirements, and one lab requirement in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Offered

PPAT has been offered every fall semester since 2011.

The Classroom

  • Classroom with 5 long tables and blue chairs on wheels; 3 sliding blackboards at the front of the room.

    Lecture

    Lectures were held in a classroom that featured movable tables and seating for 60 students.

  • Large open room with small group areas separated by walls along the periphery. Tablet desks in the center of the room.

    Lab

    Labs were held in a space accommodating both small group collaboration and whole class instruction.

 

Assessment

The students' grades were based on the following activities:

The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by video documenting. 10% Video documenting either client challenge or design process
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by two presentations. 20% Mid- and final-semester presentations
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by documentation and press release. 20% Online, open-source documentation and press release (including high quality photographs)
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by blog posts, attendance, discussion participation, lab check-ins, and mentor feedback. 30% 4 blog posts, attendance, discussion participation, lab check-ins (and mentor feedback)
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by client and peer feedback. 20% Client and peer feedback
 

Rubrics

The instructors used a rubric to assess students’ blog posts (PDF). Guest panelists used an evaluation form to assess students’ mid- and final-semester presentations (PDF). Clients used an assessment guide to provide students with feedback (PDF) about their work in the course.

Instructor Insights on Assessment

Instructor Interview: Assessing Student's Learning

Student Information

40 students took this course when it was offered in Fal 2014.

Breakdown by Major

Many students tend to be from Mechanical Engineering or Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, but students from all majors are welcome. This course is a good fit for students interested in public service, user-centered product design, working closely with a client with a disability (potentially in consultation with their caregivers and/or clinicians), and tackling difficult, real-world problems.

Typical Student Background

During the Fall 2014 offering of the course, several students had siblings or other family members with disabilities. These personal experiences informed their work in the course.

 

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 11 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

Lecture

2 hours per week
  • Met 2 times per week for 1 hour per session; mandatory attendance.
  • Lecture sessions included discussions and guest speakers. 
 

Lab

4 hours per week
  • Met 2 times per week for 2 hours per session; mandatory attendance.
  • Teams engaged in hands-on learning.
  • Some of the lab periods provided time for teams to discuss and work on their projects with technical mentors.
 

Out of Class

5 hours per week
  • Teams met weekly with their clients to understand their needs, define a problem that could be solved with assistive technology, develop evaluation metrics, and test multiple iterations of prototypes. The client meetings, design work, and documentation comprised the majority of work required outside of class.
  • Deliverables for the project included a written contextual inquiry report, a video documenting the client’s challenge or the design process, and midterm and final presentations.
 

Semester Breakdown

WEEK M T W Th F
1 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. No session scheduled. Field trip to Abilities Expo Boston scheduled.
2 Guest speaker scheduled; lab session scheduled. No session scheduled. Guest speaker scheduled; lab session scheduled. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
3 Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. No session scheduled. Blog post due.
4 Guest speaker scheduled; lab session scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. Client meetings scheduled. No session scheduled.
5 Guest speaker scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. Client meetings scheduled. No session scheduled.
6 Guest speaker scheduled; lab session scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. Client meetings scheduled. Blog post due.
7 No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. Client meetings scheduled. Assignment due date.
8 Guest speaker scheduled; lab session scheduled. No session scheduled. Lab session scheduled. Client meetings scheduled. Assignment due date.
9 Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; blog post due. Client meetings scheduled. No session scheduled.
10 Guest speaker scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. Client meetings scheduled. No session scheduled.
11 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. Client meetings scheduled. Blog post due.
12 Guest speaker scheduled. No session scheduled. Guest speaker scheduled; lab session scheduled. Client meetings scheduled. No session scheduled.
13 Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT; client meetings scheduled. No classes throughout MIT.
14 No session scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; lab session scheduled; final presentations held. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
15 No session scheduled. No session scheduled. Lab session scheduled; public showcase held. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
16 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
Displays the color and pattern used on the preceding table to indicate dates when classes are not held at MIT. No classes throughout MIT
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when lecture sessions are held. Lecture session
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when guest speakers are scheduled to present. Guest speaker
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when client meetings are scheduled. Client meetings (scheduled independently)
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when assignments are due. Assignment due date
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when no class session is scheduled. No class session scheduled
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when lab sessions are held. Labs
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when field trips are held. Field trip - Abilities Expo (Boston)
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when blog posts are due. Blog post due
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when final presentations are held. Final presentations