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An Impaired Driving Simulator, the newest exhibit at The Anatomy Academy at the Weller Center, will be unveiled Monday, May 15, at 3 p.m. at the Weller Center, 325 Northampton Street, Easton.

Housed in a bright red Porsche automobile, the exhibit was created by Lafayette College’s Technology Clinic, an upper-level course in which students from different majors partner for a year to apply what they’ve learned to solve real-life problems. Students have titled the simulator exhibit “Grasp Reality and Make a Difference” and hope to encourage participants to grasp people’s keys before they drink and drive.

Led by Lafayette facilitators Dan Bauer, professor of anthropology and sociology, and William Best, engineering instructor, the students of the Technology Clinic developed the simulator to address the growing national crisis of drinking and driving.

“Today, most drivers are aware of the dangers of drunk driving, but when people are intoxicated, they’re often unable to accurately assess their capabilities to drive,” Bauer says. “Furthermore, drunk drivers don’t accurately remember the driving experience and alcohol affects their ability to feel fear – so they don’t learn from the experience. The simulator gives people the opportunity to actually experience what it might be like to have a drunk driving encounter, yet not put their lives at risk in the process.”

Using two computer screens, the exhibit will allow two people to sit inside the car and experience the simulator at the same time.

Melissa Lee, Weller Center CEO, said the Impaired Driving Simulator will be a valuable tool in demonstrating the dangers of drunk driving.

“Lafayette students have wisely recognized that the friends of the driver can be most influential in the driver’s choice to drink and drive or not—that’s what makes this simulator unique—it offers a realistic drunk driving experience from the passenger’s and the driver’s point of view,” she added.

The simulator took two years to complete and two different Technology Clinic teams participated in its design and development.Last year’s team faced the challenge of conceptualizing and building the prototype simulator. That team consisted of 1999 graduate Mark Sandford, an English major from Smithtown, N.Y., and three current seniors, Anindya (Andy) Gupta, a computer science major from Pune, India; Ryan Miller, a computer science major from East Stroudsburg, Pa.; and Vanessa Vanderberg, a behavioral neuroscience major from Vienna, Austria.

This year’s team focused on bringing the prototype to a model that can be used by the public at The Anatomy Academy at the Weller Center. This team is made up of three seniors and two juniors. The seniors are Paul Maletsky, an A.B. engineering major from West Caldwell, N.J.; Jessica Morgan, an economics & business and anthropology & sociology double major from Watertown, Conn.; and Dana Morris, a psychology major from Cherry Hill, N.J. The juniors are Matthew Coble, a behavioral neuroscience major from Reedsville, Pa.; and Mousam Kayastha, a civil engineering and art double major from Katmandu, Nepal;

The idea for the simulator originated with John Updegrove, former chief of surgery for Easton Hospital and co-founder of the Weller Center.

“The Weller Center’s partnership with Lafayette College has been tremendously exciting—for us the ultimate excitement is that the simulator will become part of our permanent interactive health exhibits,” Lee said.

For 17 years, the Weller Center has offered educational programs in general health, family life, nutrition and drug abuse prevention for persons of all ages. Having served more than 800,000 children and adults, the Weller Center was the first such health-promotion, disease prevention education facility in Pennsylvania and is one of only 26 in the nation. The Weller Center opened The Anatomy Academy, its interactive children’s museum, following a move from its original location in Wilson Boro to downtown Easton in 1999. Today, it is the only health education center in the country offering educational programs as well as interactive exhibits.

Categorized in: Students