The Store Challenge

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INTRODUCTION

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Biomedical and robotic technologies are merging to present a wonderful opportunity to develop artificial limbs and prosthetic devices for humans injured on the job, in the military, or due to disease. In this challenge, students will have the opportunity to design a store or online service that specifically dedicates itself to amputees.

THE CHALLENGE

Many students welcome the opportunity to get involved with socially relevant activities. Here is an opportunity to use the principles and skills taught in technology and engineering education to develop a concept for a very special kind of store for amputees ... a place where amputees might go for all their needs. The first step would be to identify the goals of such a store. For instance:

1. Are there any such stores or services for amputees or other medical outlet stores that might be applicable?

2. Should the store be a traditional "bricks and mortar" physical store or should it be a virtual store, visited online or by catalog?

3. What products should be offered by the store:

* Artificial limbs/prosthetic appliances?

* Custom fitting services?

* Other peripheral products that amputees might need?

* Access to medical advice and physician contacts?

* Replacement or repair of appliances?

* Financing for the purchase of appliances?

* Networking services with other amputees?

4. Where would stores or catalog services be located?

5. How would the products be offered in relation to the companies that design and produce the appliances?

6. If a traditional store is desired, how might it be designed for access and use by amputees?

7. Would amputees prefer a more personal touch with store representatives, rather than an impersonal online store?

All stores offer products based on the expectations of the marketplace they are serving. Today, there are stores and catalogs that cater to senior citizens, offering a variety of products to assist older Americans with normal everyday activities. Is a store or catalog service for amputees something that could be modeled after these senior-citizen medical stores?

UNDERSTANDING THE MARKET

How would students determine what kinds of products and services appeal to amputees:

* Should amputees be surveyed for their input?

* Are there organizations that represent amputees?

* Are there amputee publications, websites, and newsletters available?

How many amputees are there in the country? What is the breakdown of the kinds of amputations and appliances now in use? Is it possible your store could be international? And in that case, what are the statistics on the number of worldwide amputees? …