Haffner in shower unit

Engineering students make auto
shower for Fort Wayne man

 

ANGOLA, Ind. – A hands-free, automatic shower system developed by Trine University's Innovation One and a team of engineering students has improved a Fort Wayne man's quality of life.

"It will definitely make a big difference to me. I'm nearly 61 years old and for the first time I can shower myself alone," said Terry Haffner, a Fort Wayne resident and artist who was born without arms and with partial legs. "In August, I will have been in my own villa for two years and the shower was the last hurdle as far as making my home accessible."

The shower, which the development team assigned a working of Haffner Hands-Free Shower System, features areas to rinse, shampoo hair, wash the body and be dried.

Water temperature and pressure is controlled so Haffner can safely turn it on and off. The unit is divided into stations that wash various parts of the body progressively. Haffner moves through the system much like an auto would move through an automatic car wash.

The hair-washing station gently scrubs the scalp and a pre-set amount of shampoo flows out when the station is activated.

The body-washing area has a series of replaceable synthetic mesh loofahs that are automatically actuated. Water comes from above and below and liquid soap is delivered by spray. The area facing the scrubbers is padded for safety.

The drying area features warm air and uses less energy than would be used to wash and dry towels.

"As far as we know, it's the first prototype of its kind," said Tom DeAgostino, i1 director. "It was the Haffner family's idea and i1 and a team of engineering students' interpretation of the concept." When developing the shower system, the team focused on safety, functionality and aesthetics, he said.

It took nearly a year for the shower system to be developed and involved Trine's mechanical and electrical engineering departments and design engineering technology department.

"Having supported many senior design projects with students over the years, I think it was the most complicated, multidisciplinary project I have seen presented as a design project," said Tom Haffner, Terry Haffner's twin who is a Charlotte, N.C., mechanical engineer and businessman who financed the project. "I think Tom DeAgostino hit a home run in terms of what they put together. The university delivered beyond what was expected.

"It's quite remarkable. ... This thing didn't exist in the world. I did patent searches, reviews; could not find anything like it. It's possibly patentable and Trine University has the rights to this," Tom Haffner said.

Tom Haffner's idea was mentioned to a Trine team by another brother, Tim Haffner, a Fort Wayne attorney.

"I recognized the effort Trine was undertaking to try to assist with commercializing technology and I initiated a conversation and was introduced to DeAgostino," he said. Tim Haffner is a partner with Faegre Baker Daniels, a Fort Wayne law firm, and in the course of his employment, "I had the benefit of doing work with Trine and knew the depth of the engineering department. I explained the concept to them and said 'is this something you have an interest in doing' and they said yes."

The Haffner brothers each said they were glad that i1 took on the project because another university presented the project to its engineering students, but no student team chose it.

"We were excited that Trine took us on and accepted our project," Terry Haffner said. "It was a dream come true to have them say yes. The students were incredible – they're talented, they're bright, they're warm."

His kudos also extend to the biomechanics laboratory, in which a team lead by Kiwon Park, Ph.D., recorded Terry Haffner's measurements and movements so the development group could determine where to position components for optimum accessibility, safety and comfort.

The shower was installed July 25 by members of Trine's campus operations department and DeAgostino and student-worker Tim Downing, a senior design engineering technology major from Bowling Green, Ohio, went to Terry Haffner's home to get feedback and make adjustments.

Another positive is that the shower system could be modified to help other individuals with disabilities, Terry Haffner said.

The Trine students who worked on the shower system for their senior design project are May graduates Kegan Crawford of Sheridan; Ryan Kikkert, Fair Oaks; Rachel McGuinness, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Chris Propp, Warsaw; and Danielle Reenders, Grand Haven, Mich.

In the U.S., 1.7 million people are living with limb loss, according to amputee-coalition.org.

To partner with i1, contact DeAgostino at deagostinot@trine.edu, or Michael Bock, senior vice president, at bockm@trine.edu.

For more information about i1, visit innovation1.org.

Cutline: Terry Haffner shows the new hands-free shower system that was installed in his Fort Wayne home. Photo by Dean Orewiler, Trine photographer.