ERC’s Wearable Device Challenge Fosters Precollege Outreach

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To foster broader precollege outreach, the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies (ASSIST), headquartered at North Carolina State University, hosts an annual Wearable Device Challenge. This flagship program tasks students with designing wearable devices to solve a global health challenge.


The Wearable Device Challenge teaches middle and high school teachers and students how to apply the engineering design process to solve real-world problems through a project-based approach. The Challenge aims to build a pipeline for young scientists and engineers and publicize the Center’s work to the student community.


The Wearable Device Challenge tasks students with designing a wearable device to monitor the health of a human or animal based on environmental factors and/or disease transmission. On the basis of a prompt, middle and high school students tackle such diverse issues as the health and safety of farm workers and farm animals, first responder exposure, and the monitoring of specific health conditions like sleep apnea, asthma, and seizures. The top teams have an opportunity to present their prototypes at the ASSIST Center’s annual competition.

To facilitate the competition, teachers receive training from the NSF-funded Center, including completing a version of the Wearable Device Challenge to familiarize themselves with the process. The teachers also develop lesson plans based on challenge concepts that align with their curricula.