SUNY Poly Mechanical Engineering Students Participate in CREATE Symposium to Help Individuals with Disabilities Become More Successful in the Workplace

SUNY Poly Mechanical Engineering Students Participate in CREATE Symposium to Help Individuals with Disabilities Become More Successful in the Workplace

Monday, April 4, 2022 - 11:26
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From left to right: students Peter Castiglia, Eric Johnson, and Andrew Burns

NYSID News Release

Colleges from Around the State Participate in NYSID-Sponsored Competition

(Albany) - NYSID (New York State Industries for the Disabled, Inc.), has announced the 2022 CREATE (Cultivating Resources for Employment with Assistive TEchnology) Symposium where college engineering students collaborate with rehabilitative support organizations to develop innovations that help those with disabilities succeed in their jobs. The event, open to the public, will take place on Monday, April 25, in Meeting Room 6 of the North Concourse/Empire State Plaza from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. The event is now in its eighth year. 

College engineering students from around the state will demonstrate their inventions. Descriptions of the projects are included below, including a “Slate Cleaning and Packaging Project” designed by a group of SUNY Poly seniors as part of the Mechanical Engineering program. The project aims to improve the processes employed in the moving and packaging of heavy slate as well as heavy cleaning liquids to assist workers who have disabilities complete these tasks more easily and efficiently.

A panel of community business leaders will evaluate and score the CREATE projects. Student teams will compete to receive prize funds worth $15,000 dollars, $10,000 dollars or $5,000 dollars, to be split between students, their universities and their rehabilitation organization partners. This year there are nine teams from five colleges and five NYSID member rehabilitation organizations each presenting their assistive technology. Members of the NYS Legislature will attend and speak at CREATE. 

“The CREATE Symposium is one of our favorite events of the year. Not only does it showcase part of what we do at NYSID, it allows for innovation from college students to help make it easier for our member organizations to employ people with disabilities,” said Maureen O’Brien, CEO of NYSID. “In New York State, 67 percent of people with disabilities are not employed or are underemployed. . The CREATE Symposium offers an opportunity for students to build a specially designed invention that can go a long way toward helping an individual become more productive in the workplace. We are excited to share the 2022 inventions with our legislators and the public.”

Colleges/NYSID Member Agencies/Inventions Include: 

SUNY Polytechnic Institute/Arc Oneida-Lewis

·      Slate Cleaning and Packaging Project – The main focus of this project is to improve the system currently in place to wash and package slate used to make cutting boards that come to them from a local quarry. The project aims to improve how they move the heavy slate from one station to the other as well as heavy buckets of cleaning liquid used to wash the slate.

CUNY City College/Goodwill NYNJ

·      Altri – Altri is an Android application developed using Java in Android Studio. The goal is to improve the independence of adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and provide them with support throughout their tasks while trying to help enhance their social skills. There are two main components to the app: a scheduler and an AI chatbot.

·      Autism Bridge – The team created an app-based solution that aims to tackle the foremost causes of the high unemployment rate faced by people with ASD. An employer's lack of understanding about autism often creates difficulties in applying for jobs or handling interview situations effectively. By providing a professional network mobile application with a special focus on people with ASD, it will help eliminate the difficulties in applying for jobs by connecting individuals with recruiters, talent managers and potential employers.

·      EverHear – EverHear's objective is to provide an equal and comfortable workplace experience for individuals that have any form of hearing loss. They accomplish this by improving on speech-to-text and including speech to American Sign Language (ASL) and ASL-to-text via a graphical keyboard interface. The app will allow people to text or send audio to other coworkers. The app will then translate the audio or text to ASL when communicating with a user who knows ASL. For people who only communicate through ASL, the team will develop a graphical keyboard enabling users to chat in ASL and, depending on the user's choice, the text will be translated to English or kept in ASL.

·      Schedule and Structure – An app that aims to help individuals with autism and/or ADHD with organizing, planning and staying focused on tasks. The app will allow for collaboration between workers and supervisors. With its scheduling features, chat space and mood tracker, it will allow for greater ease of communication and building structure for their day.

Manhattan College/Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State

·      High-Res Headband Document Scanner & Transmitter – Smile Farms is a workplace that employs physically disabled individuals on various tasks which can range from watering plants to shredding paper in bulk. Randy, who works at Smile Farm, is immobile from neck down with some control over his fingers. He aspires to work in the paper scanning department and requested the team build a device to scan documents in a way that does not require him to use his hands. The team came up with the idea of creating a wireless scanner that could transmit the scanned documents to a computer without much, if any, human involvement needed.

·      Smart Register – CP of NYS has a location in the Bronx that is opening a cafeteria. The workers with disabilities at this location have trouble using the cash register. The Member Agency partner requested that the team develop a Smart Register as there are little to no smart cash registers that are designed for workers with disabilities. The team plans on using a system to scan currency with a camera. The system will recognize the currency and upload it to a touchscreen panel that is connected to an application. The application will then compute the change the worker needs to give to the customer.

New York Institute of Technology (NYIT)/AHRC Nassau 

·      Cardboard Shipping Material project – NYIT intends to create a technology that standardizes the process of cutting and gluing specific cardboard shipping materials. The new technology will create a safe and productive environment to maximize the output of quality cardboard shipping materials, thus enabling AHRC to train more individuals with disabilities to produce the materials.

SUNY Albany/Center for Disability Services

·      Shredder Paper Disposal System – One of the shredders in the Mail Fulfillment affirmative business is difficult to empty. The process currently used is to place a cart with two bags under the shredder, wait until they are full, then remove the bags, lift them and throw all the paper into another box. Often, a worker with a disability has difficulty lifting the bag without assistance, reducing the worker’s productivity. The goal of the project is to make the process easier by allowing the worker to dispose of the paper through an automatic process, resulting in more efficiency.

Judges include: 

Eric Ledet, Center for Disability Services; John Robinson, Our Ability; Stacey Hengsterman, Special Olympics New York; Maggie Duffy, Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield; Mark Eagan, Capital Region Chamber; Elaina Heagerty, St. Peter’s Health; Heather Briccetti, Business Council of New York; Bradley Jacobs, Spectrum Designs; and Andy Grosso, CREATE Founder

About the 2022 Judges: 

Mr. Eric Ledet:

Eric H. Ledet, Ph.D. is Vice President of Research & Development and Director of the Health Innovation Incubator & Technology Center at the Center for Disability Services in Albany, New York. Dr. Ledet also serves as Chief Science Officer and Co-Founder of ReVivo Medical and is an Adjunct Professor in Orthopaedic Surgery at the Albany Medical College.

Dr. Ledet is a biomedical engineer with 26 years of award-winning translational research experience, 21 years of experience consulting for the medical devices industry, and 10 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur in the medical devices sector. He is also an award-winning educator who has developed curricula and taught courses on design, product development, and technology transfer. He has served on multiple advisory boards for Fortune 500 companies, medical/health foundations, and medical device startups. Dr. Ledet is the lead inventor on 17 issued patents and he has over 150 peer-reviewed presentations and publications.

Mr. Andy Grosso:

Andy, now “retired,”  served as NYSID’s VP, Business Development for over ten years. CREATE was Grosso’s brainchild while at NYSID. In his retirement, Andy founded Grosso Strategic Marketing (GSM) in 2016, a consultancy focusing on Branding, Business Development, Customer Satisfaction, Marketing Planning, and Training.  He is a Senior Manager with a 35-year career in business development, consulting, wholesale distribution, publishing, and direct response.  Andy’s professional expertise focuses on assisting companies achieving long-term growth and sustainable competitive advantage by providing superior value as defined by the customer and anticipating emerging needs in the marketplace. He has extensive experience in developing and implementing market-driven strategies that recognize and respond to the dynamic interaction among customers, collaborators, and competitors.

Mr. Bradley Jacobs:

Bradley Jacobs, Production Assistant at Spectrum Designs Foundation, is originally from Baltimore, Maryland and graduated from Brehm Preparatory School's OPTIONS program with a certificate in graphic design. Bradley now lives independently in White Plains and is supported by WJCS' POINT (Pursuing Our Independence Together) community. Bradley has a loving family in his mom, dad, two sisters and brother-in-law. He loves working at Spectrum and spends his free time networking, creating jewelry, on social media, and connecting with new people.

Mr. John Robinson:

CEO at Our Ability, John is dedicated to connecting individuals with disabilities towards education and employment through mentoring, workshops, public speaking as well as job placement. Our Ability is the only disability owned and operated business dedicated to building employment opportunities through job platforms, employment webinars, digital profile system and personal empowerment. John is also an accomplished video producer, multi-sport athlete, devoted family man, and author.

Ms. Stacey Hengsterman:

As President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Special Olympics New York, Stacey Hengsterman leads the largest Special Olympics chapter in the country and the sixth largest in the world. Prior to taking the role in July 2018, Hengsterman spent two decades shaping state higher education policy as a top advisor to the chancellor, Board of Trustees, and 64 campus presidents at the State University of New York (SUNY).

Drawing on what she’s learned throughout a distinguished career in public service, and as a mother to a son with Down syndrome, Hengsterman has a set a vision for the future of Special Olympics New York that positions New York to be the most inclusive state in the country.

Ms. Maggie Duffy:

Maggie Duffy is Senior Director of Government Relations for Empire BlueCross BlueShield HealthPlus.  She has been with the company since April 2010 and is responsible for legislative and regulatory issues affecting Empire BCBS HealthPlus in New York.  Ms. Duffy joined Amerigroup in 2010 from her position as Director of Government Relations for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, where she oversaw the legislative and budgetary concerns in six states.  Prior to her national role with Boys & Girls Clubs, Maggie worked for the lobbying firms of Cordo & Co. and E-3 Communications in Albany, representing clients in health care, commercial real estate, wind energy, and nonprofit organizations.  

Maggie began her career in New York State Government working for the NYS Assembly and the Democratic Assembly Campaign Committee.  Following this, she was the Legislative Aide for Assemblyman Paul Tokasz and finally, the Deputy Director of Communications for Senator Martin Connor, Democratic Leader of the NYS Senate.  She graduated from Ithaca College in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in English.

Mr. Mark Eagan:

Mark Eagan serves as President and CEO of the Capital Region Chamber and its Center for Economic Growth affiliate. The organizations drive economic prosperity with one voice, one mission, as one region. The Chamber, with 2,800 member-business from throughout Albany, Saratoga, Schenectady, and Rensselaer counties, provides catalytic leadership, advocacy, and broad-based member services. The Center for Economic Growth is the 8-county regional economic development organization. Eagan has more than 30 years of experience as a chamber executive. Prior to being recruited to the Capital Region in 2008, he held executive posts with chambers in Mansfield and Brockton MA, and South Bend, IN.

Mark holds a bachelor’s degree from Stonehill College and a Certificate in Executive Management from the University of Notre Dame. He is also a graduate of the Institute for Organization Management at the University of Delaware. He has earned the professional designation of Certified Chamber Executive.

Ms. Heather Briccetti, Esq:

Heather C. Briccetti, Esq. is the president and chief executive officer of The Business Council of New York State, Inc., the primary, statewide association advocating for New York’s business community. Ms. Briccetti is a dynamic leader, trusted advisor and champion for economic growth, good jobs, and strong communities across New York. 

As a visionary for New York’s economy, she has created a leading voice for business on economic growth, corporate governance, tax policy, labor, manufacturing, campaign finance reform, value creation, and education, among other issues.

Ms. Elaina Heagerty:

Elaina Heagerty, MPH, is a Program Management Consultant at St. Peter's Health Partners (SPHP), a member of Trinity Health. She has nearly 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry, including academic research at Boston Children's Hospital and quality improvement program management at United Hospital Fund in Manhattan. 

In her current role, Elaina co-manages program operations for the SPHP Minimally Invasive Center of Excellence and supports growth and program development efforts across the organization. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Elaina co-represented SPHP on the Capital Region Vaccine Network and managed logistics for multiple SPHP clinics.

NYSID is a not-for-profit business with a mission of "Advancing employment and other opportunities for individuals with disabilities." Established in 1975, NYSID is a registered 501(c)(3) Not for Profit which creates employment opportunities for nearly 5,000 New Yorkers with disabilities annually through New York's Preferred Source Program. NYSID's community rehabilitation Member Agencies and Corporate Partners are located throughout the state, providing jobs in the community and in production facilities. For more information, visit


About SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly)

SUNY Poly is New York’s globally recognized, high-tech educational ecosystem. SUNY Poly offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the emerging disciplines of nanoscience and nanoengineering, as well as cutting-edge nanobioscience programs at its Albany campus, and undergraduate and graduate degrees in technology, including engineering, cybersecurity, computer science, and the engineering technologies; professional studies, including business, communication, and nursing; and arts and sciences, including natural sciences, game design, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences at its Utica campus; thriving athletic, recreational, and cultural programs, events, and activities complement the campus experience. As the world’s most advanced, university-driven research enterprise, SUNY Poly boasts billions of dollars in high-tech investments and hundreds of corporate partners since its inception. For information visit