Partnership with Concord High leads to national award for Scan ‘n Sort

A barcode scanning device that enables Christiana Care employees with disabilities to categorize unused medicines is the winning idea in SourceAmerica’s Design Challenge, a national engineering competition where students develop assistive technology for nonprofit agencies employing people with disabilities.

Students from Concord High School partnered with Christiana Care’s Project SEARCH Program to create Scan ‘n Sort, a device programmed to alphabetically categorize meds.

Scan ‘n Sort allows Justin Hall, a Project SEARCH intern, to do his job more efficiently. Hall said the largest barrier to productivity was reading small type on the labels on medicine bottles.

Now, the scanner does that for him. Hall then places the medication in the correct bin, which are labeled alphabetically.

“This collaboration has added so much value across the organization,” said Nicole D’Ambrosio, talent advisor, Human Resources, Talent Acquisition Strategy. “Because of Scan ‘n Sort, we are able to make job accommodations for individuals with a variety of different disabilities. This benefits the business as well, for it allows our Pharmacy Techs to spend more time on their core roles.”

With the scanner, sorting is now easy for workers of many physical skill levels and disabilities, allowing for improved patient care and employee efficiency.

“Justin arrives to the pharmacy every day with a positive attitude. It is a pleasure working with him and we are excited to have the opportunity to help a person with a disability,” said Sam Wetherill, Pharm.D., MHA, director of Pharmacy Supply and Automation. “Having Justin allows our pharmacy techs more of an opportunity to focus on providing patient care and reducing turnaround times. He has provided a source of inspiration for the entire pharmacy team.”

At the start of SourceAmerica’s Design Challenge last fall, Concord High students met with Angie Hansen, Project SEARCH instructor at Christiana Care. Project SEARCH serves people with disabilities through innovative workforce and career development.

“What I like most about the Concord team’s device are the results Justin is able to achieve with it,” Hansen said. “He feels very independent and has a higher efficiency rate, which builds his self-esteem. The Scan ‘n Sort makes him that much more valuable in our department.”

The students used trigonometry to determine the right angle of the scanner and a 3-D printer to improve the design’s accuracy. The user swipes the barcode on the medication under the scanner.

The Scan ‘n Sort features an LCD screen that visually displays information to the user. The device also is equipped with speakers that audibly indicate the correct alphabetical sorting bin for each medicine. The sound can be turned up to accommodate users with hearing problems.

If an unknown medicine is scanned, the Scan ‘n Sort features an “add mode” to enter and store new medicine into the database. The device was recently modified to speak different languages, which can accommodate employees with language barriers.

The winning designs were announced April 13, at the National Finals in Washington, D.C.

“Through the dedicated work of students, coaches and nonprofit partners, the Design Challenge has a tremendous impact on communities,” said Charissa Garcia, Design Challenge coordinator. “We are addressing employment issues in a multi-faceted manner; the tools enhance employment success for those with disabilities, the projects help the students become better engineers and conscious employees, and the whole program showcases what can be accomplished when we work together.”