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Making a Difference for Assistive Technology

Discussion in 'News' started by reprap aggregation pipe, Oct 1, 2015.

  1. Kim was born without arms and legs, and needed to pick things up with her mouth. Zebreda needed a way to feed herself after her assisted living facility would no longer cover the expense of a helper, while Shari needed a way to transfer herself from a wheelchair.

    Every person with a disability has a unique experience, and no solution fits all. That’s where TOM comes in.

    Tikkun Olam Makers is an Israel-based nonprofit whose name means “repairing the world.” TOM brings together “need-knowers” like Kim or Zebreda with experts like mechanical engineers or exoskeleton scientists. Over the course of 72 hours, the teams solve real problems that the need-knowers experience in their daily lives.

    MakerBot was inspired and honored to be part of TOM’s fourth and most recent such event in San Francisco last month, where more than 120 people came together at TechShop to form 18 teams and solve 18 problems. TOM partnered with Google.org and United Cerebral Palsy of North Bay, which identified the need-knowers, while tools and support were provided by MakerBot, TechShop, and others.

    With the need-knower to test and identify pain points, and so many tools available, teams were able to iterate quickly. Many tried out several failed concepts before they landed on a viable solution.

    For example, Shari is able to pull but not push, so many designs that would work for other wheelchair transfers didn’t work for her. And with Kim, one prototype for a grasping device put too much strain on her neck; another felt uncomfortable in her mouth.

    If one team needed the skills of another team’s experts, TOM would connect them to collaborate. That way, the teams could arrive at as many solutions as possible by the end of 72 hours.

    TOM recognizes that there is a cost to not integrating the disabled population into society. The solutions explored at the TOM Makeathon began with one person’s challenge but many will apply to others. About 15% of the world population, or one billion people, live with a disability, according to the World Health Organization. In the end, though, helping even one person to live better is a victory.

    As one of the need-knowers told us, “I wake up every morning, and I can guarantee myself that I’m gonna have obstacles… it’s the little things during those days that can help make those challenges a little easier — that makes the biggest difference.”

    All but one of the teams used a MakerBot Replicator during the 72-hour makeathon. The many 3D printable solutions are shared on Thingiverse and can be scaled or modified to help another person with a similar challenge somewhere else in the world.

    Have great ideas about how you can make someone’s life a little easier? Check out our latest Thingiverse Challenge to design something great for a fellow human.

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