I had the opportunity to attend (& present) the Assistive Technology Makers Faire in Monroeville PA (outside of Pittsburgh) on September 24th and 25th.
Assistive Technology (defn : any device, software, or equipment that helps people work around their challenges) is such a great opportunity for #MakerSpace ‘s and #STEM clubs. There is a wide variety of challenges for people to live their lives. Sometimes big corporations make devices, but often those are expensive. Sometimes insurance doesn’t cover AT. Often it is something that needs to be customized. This is where the #Hacker #Maker fills a role. Many times that device that costs $$$, a maker looks at it and says “I can make that for $ and personalize it for you”
I first looked at Assistive Technology during NOMCON19 in Chattanooga this past summer. There was a toy hack session the day before (“pre-con” type events). At this toy hack, we took toys/stuffed animals that had small buttons or press points on them (those musical/speaking toys), and we wired large external buttons to them. This makes them available for those that have difficulties with fine motor skills.
Of course there were many awesome sessions about various aspects and ideas. Mine was about making a microbit coded braille cell, an idea from Leslie Edmonds. We only had enough time for people to wire 3 buttons and a speaker and code it to play music. I would have liked to talk more about making boxes and maybe have people partner up and code 6 buttons. A local #MakerSpace brought in a laser cutter, vinyl cutter, and 3D printer for people to test out. But the best part was the AT Makers Cafe, run by Therese Willkomm from the University of New Hampshire. It is a hacker/makerspace for using low cost materials, such as coroplast and various adhesives and velcro, to make assistive devices. Volunteering 2 days in the space made me think : 1) every space needs some coroplast 2) all AT, PT, OT schools need to have a room full of materials just so their students can get used to them and working with them. Therese has handouts with QR codes of projects, tools and materials.
Next years event will be in Concord NH, October 24th.
Therese also has a neat pole idea for displays on the tables... a woodworking clamp with pvc on it. The display is coroplast creased so it folds to fit in a suitcase. Pictures are held on with velcro, so easily changed.
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