MadWorC goes to school!

MadWorC is excited to work with UW CREATe, (Center for Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology) located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. It is an organization consisting of students studying engineering, occupational therapy, business, and design studies (both grad students and undergrads). This group uses their talents to design equipment for individuals with disabilities also with efforts in biomechanics and orthopedic implant systems. This is a non-profit team that uses their new skills to help an underserved population in our community.

Jay Martin, the director for UW ARTe Design group (“Assistive and Rehabilitative Technology,” part of UW CREATe), recently met with MadWorC because he is interested in having the center become a worker cooperative. Because the group already practices most of the seven co-op principles, the structure of a worker co-op seems like a natural progression. Most of their projects require more then a semester to complete and the sustainability built into a worker cooperative lends itself to the needs of the group. Functionally, the individuals are much more then students taking college classes -– their projects have the potential to really change peoples’ lives.

The mission of UW CREATe is to engage in engineering research, design, and education that will assist in providing additional independence to individuals with disabilities.

Skis designed by UW CREATe participated in the American Birkebeiner in Hayward, WI, this year. Photo by Ole Olson.

Some of UW CREATe’s past projects have been a huge success. You might recognize one of them if you spent any time at Madison Winterfest – the “sit-ski.” This device allows an athlete with disabilities to cross-country ski. Now, 150 sit-skis have been manufactured and shipped across the United States using UW CREATe’s design. The US Paralympic Committee was so excited when they learned of the initial 150 sit-skis that they are providing funding for an additional 100 sit-skis. Before this project started, there were only 50 Nordic sit-skis in the entire country and they cost over $2000 each. Because of this project, by the end of 2010, there will be an additional 250 sit-skis being donated at no cost across the country. UW CREATe’s current projects also include a wheel chair accessible crib for mothers with disabilities and a self-powered wheelchair lift used to climb small stairways.

One of the biggest challenges for the organization will be how the new UW CREATe worker cooperative is integrated into the University system. Jay has met with Anne Reynolds, the Assistant Director of the UW Center for Cooperatives, and they are working on proposals for the legal relationship now.

Student-led businesses are a new thing for UW Madison, although they do exist at other universities. The University of Massachusetts in Amherst has a well-established group of small worker cooperatives that are led by students. U-Mass provides assistance in the structure and guidelines for these companies, and the students do the rest. These businesses include coffeeshops, bike shops and a copy and print shop. What will make the UW CREATe program unique is that the students will be starting a business where they can actually work in the disciplines they are studying.

For more information on UW CREATe, please visit

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