Field Trip: The Crotched Mountain School

Alex Wenstrup, ‘22

Olin College prides itself on being a caring community of learners deeply committed to transformative engineering education - striving to place context, equity, social justice, sustainability and citizenship at the heart of engineering.

Olin visits the Crotched Mountain School

From left to right: (Me) Alex ‘22, Serna ‘21, Leila ‘22, Arwen ‘22, Case ‘22, Robin ‘22, Sally (PGP), Jeff Dusek (Faculty)

Hi everyone!

It’s Alex, coming at you from the PGP Intern desk with another blog post. This time, I’m writing about a recent trip I took with an Olin summer research group to the Crotched Mountain School, (part of the Crotched Mountain Foundation), located in Greenfield, New Hampshire.

The Crotched Mountain School was founded in the 1960’s, originally to provide education to children with polio. Over the decades, it has evolved to support children with a variety of different medical needs, and today, it serves children with autism, physical disabilities, and other special medical conditions. Students come primarily from New Hampshire and Massachusetts, though  they also come from all over the country, and of the 100 students that attend the school, about two thirds live there full time.

The research team that I had the pleasure of accompanying is led by Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Jeff Dusek, who teaches Quantitative Engineering Analysis here at Olin, conducts research in his Lab for Adaptation, Inclusion and Robotics (LAIR), and also coaches Olin’s sailing team. Currently, Jeff and his team are working in the LAIR lab on a few projects, including a device that would enable visually impaired swimmers to sense when they are nearing a wall, and low-cost products for the home of a young person with cerebral palsy.   

Upon arriving at the school, we enjoyed the incredible view of the surrounding mountains before heading in to a conference room where we received a brief history lesson and began our tour. We got a close look at their state-of-the-art academic, athletic, and living facilities, and the engineer in me was giddy to see assistive technology in so many places. From simple buttons that students press when they need to use the bathroom to full computers that can be controlled by the movement of a student’s eyes, it was clear that a lot of engineering had gone into improving the lives of these students. What stood out most about this technology was that no two devices were the same. Every gadget was tailored to best suit each student’s needs, and a great deal of thought and engineering seemed to go into each solution.  


Arwen uses a computer controlled by their eyes!


Serna takes notes during our campus tour

This summer the Crotched Mountain School has hired an Olin intern, Erika “Serna” ‘21, to lay the groundwork for the partnership between our schools. Serna will be rotating through the school’s various programs, learning as much as possible about the students’ lives and needs, tracking projects and laying the groundwork for this collaborative relationship. Her project of focus this summer is helping with a kayak modification that will help secure the students in a seated position and help them reach the foot pedals.  The team at Olin will be supporting Serna when she needs some technical support or reinforcement.

As you may be able to tell, our partnership with The Crotched Mountain School is very new and very exciting for us, so make sure to keep an eye out for updates! I will be writing more about them as our relationship develops over the summer.

Thanks for reading, and have a great summer,

Alex ‘22


An assortment of accessible bicycles gets the creative wheels turning for the research team (pun intended)


 The Crotched Mountain School’s garden is a great way for students to interact with the outdoors
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