Prosthetic Market in Ohio Researched by Georgetown Students
November 30, 2011 – Students at the School of Continuing Studies (SCS) are helping an economically depressed area in northeast Ohio revitalize itself through a new course called City Lab.
City Lab, made possible through a gift from the SPIRE Institute, has SCS students in a wide variety of SCS master’s programs applying what they learned in the classroom to real-world development.
The economy of Geneva, Ohio, and its surrounding area used to be based on the auto industry, with the small town subsisting on rubber manufacturing and other auto-related businesses. When the auto industry went bust, so did the Ohio region.
After meeting with town leaders and citizens, City Lab participants suggested a sustainable northeast Ohio economic cluster that would attract and create entities generating research, products and opportunities for physically disabled people who use prosthetics and other devices.
“I knew that City Lab was going to be the ultimate hands-on experience as far as developing a business plan and that it was real,” says Kelly Holdcraft, who is pursuing an SCS master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications. “It wasn’t a scenario where we were working with a made up client. Anything we do in City Lab is ultimately going to be executed upon.”
One of the reasons the class chose to focus on what is known as the “adaptive-para” community is because SPIRE, a nonprofit organization designed to “unlock the full potential of the human spirit via athletics, academics and service,” has relationships with the United States Olympic Committee and the Wounded Warrior project.
Aimee Mullins (F’98), a Paralympic Games track and field star, is the founding member of SPIRE’s Athlete Leadership Board. She recently announced SPIRE’s alliance with the Parker Hannefin Corporation to study human motion control technologies.
The revitalization choice also makes sense, participants say, because Northeast Ohio has the right industries – medical, manufacturing and sports – to create a new economic cluster involving the prosthetic or exoskeleton market.
A powered exoskeleton is a mobile machine with an exoskeleton-like framework with a power supply. People with physical disabilities use the device to create at least part of the activation and energy necessary to move limbs.
“Students are actively working to create a business plan for economic development and will convene various corporate, nonprofit and government organizations to help put it into place,” notes SCS Dean Robert Manuel.
The multidisciplinary course brings together the skills and talent of students and faculty members from SCS master’s programs in human resources management; public relations & corporate communications; real estate; and technology management, as well as the school’s undergraduate and graduate students in liberal studies.
Holdcraft, director of paralegal programs at Georgetown, says the group studied reports on the Northeast Ohio region, read texts on economic clusters and social capital, heard lectures from faculty members and met with community leaders and townspeople.
She says SCS students wanted to continue working with City Lab because “we knew that whatever seed we planted was going to grow into something much larger. And we were the ones who got to plant the seed.”
SCS master’s degree students are required to complete a capstone project.
“It seems like everyone in the class wants to use some part of our experience in developing a capstone to further this business plan,” Holdcraft says.
The course will continue to be offered in the spring 2012 semester, and SCS and SPIRE will continue to work together on future collaborative educational efforts.
“City Lab is rethinking how education applies to and impacts the real world,” Manuel says. “Our relationship with SPIRE makes possible this window into the future of clinical and multidisciplinary study.”