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TOM:Schechter Westchester

Meet your future physicists, neuroscientists, chemists, teachers, lawyers, and businessmen. 

Instead of spending their weekend hanging out with friends or doing homework, 30 students from Schechter Westchester and Golda Och Academy made history in the XLN Idea Lab on Sunday and Monday creating solutions for everyday challenges facing people with disabilities. 

The 2 day Makeathon (marathon of making) organized by Dr. Danny Aviv launched TOM:SW, the newest TOM:Tikkun Olam Makers ( community and the first in history launched on a high school campus. 

TOM is a global movement of communities of makers, designers, developers, and innovators who solve challenges faced by people living with disabilities worldwide. “These young innovators deployed their talent and resources to help local people that face neglected challenges that have no market solution and no government solution.” shared Gidi Grinstein, president of the Reut Group, “by creating specific and extremely affordable solutions to specific problems, and then making the designs globally available, these 11th grade students are part of a global movement that can help millions living with disabilities.”

TOM:SW was launched alongside three college campuses this Spring with the support of the Jim Joseph Foundation to mobilize Jewish young adults to make a positive impact in their community.

The Makeathon was split into two sprints: Day 1 focused on replicating solutions created by other TOM Communities around the world and Day 2 focused on creating new solutions for a local resident living with a disability. 

Split into five teams, each with a challenge and instructions on how to create a solution, each team had 10 hours to adapt and replicate using materials and resources locally available. Students surpassed expectations and completed their products in under 6 hours!

Shuval’s Tray: Shuval is a programmer at Motorola in Israel, was born with Cerebral Palsy and uses a manual wheelchair. At lunchtime at work, Shuval has a challenging time managing his lunch tray. A team in the Tel Aviv Developer Groups designed a 3D printed add-on to hold his food tray. Looking at the 3D model, students at TOM:SW noticed that it was not universal for any tray - using a clamp and pvc pipe, the team took the original design and adapted it so other wheelchair users can easily replicate for their unique wheelchair-food tray needs.

Tamar’s Ponytail Holder: Tamar was injured in a horseback riding accident last year and is not longer able to bend her elbow - making putting her hair in a ponytail extremely challenging. A team at TOM:Alyn Good Deeds Day in Jerusalem designed a one-handed ponytail holder. The team at TOM:SW easily replicated the solution and then found youtube videos online of no-tech methods to put a ponytail in with one hand.

Ran’s Sensor: Ran was injured in Operation Protective Edge three summers ago in Israel - he lost one of his legs and the other is partially paralyzed. At risk for pressure sores, Ran is unable to feel whether or not he should adjust his leg brace. A team at TOM:JLM for Wounded Soldiers designed a leg sensor and phone app to alert Ran. The team at TOM:SW read the solution and realized that this may be cumbersome - they replicated the leg sensor and extended the sensor to his stomach, when he needs to adjust, the sensor buzzes.

Bar’s EpiPen Holder: Bar is 6 years old and is allergic to nuts. When the temperature rises above 15-30 degrees celcius, his Epipen needs to be replaced. The team at TOM:Philips designed a canister with a cooling gel that holds the epipen and activates at 27 degrees, starts to a jingle at 29 degrees, and turns on a red light when temperatures reach 30 degrees (telling the user to replace). The team at TOM:SW replicated the case, added palitare tiles to cool and regulate the temperature. If the temperature rises above 29 degrees, the canister starts buzzing. 

Vera’s Door Opener: Vera lives in the Bay Area, uses a power wheelchair and cannot open doors independently. At the Bay Area Makeathon in 2015, the team designed a door stopper so Vera can open the door by herself. While watching a video of Vera using the solution, the team at TOM:SW noticed that Vera still had a challenging time turning the handle of the door and created a high-tech component to also turn the handle of the door in addition to opening the door. 

On Day 2 of the Makeathon, students met with local resident and retired teacher, Mrs. Joan Fuhrman (fondly called “Grandma Joan” by the Makeathon participants). At 83 years old, Grandma Joan leads a very active social life, loves playing mahjong, is active in her synagogue, and has three children, eight grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Grandma Joan uses a walker to help her maintain her balance but has a challenging time getting her walker into her car and also cannot use an umbrella.

“The impact of the makeathon for both me and my students is the realization that their work/designs/projects can, in the end, make a difference in someone’s life. Everything we do in class is focused around a problem the students themselves define. Working to create projects that were designed for an actual person with a specific need and spending time problem solving with that person makes the process more “real” and valuable.” shared Dr. Kelmanovich of Golda Och Academy.

Splitting into five groups again - 4 from Schechter Westchester and 1 from Golda Och, the teams had 10 hours to create solutions for Grandma Joan’s challenges.

Photo 1: Meeting Grandma Joan and discussing her challenges

Photo 2: Measuring Grandma Joan’s car and ideating

Photo 3: Working hard on a solution to get Grandma Joan’s walker into her car

Photo 4: The team from Golda Och designed a ramp to help Grandma Joan lift her wheelchair into her car. 

Photo 5 and 6: Teams designed both manual and electric pulley systems to pull Grandma Joan’s walker into her car.

Photo 7: Look at this umbrella and shopping basket designed for Grandma Joan’s walker!

The weekend was a success! When asked why he chose to join the Makeathon, Schechter Westchester 11th grader Jacob Lovell shared, “It’s a great opportunity to both help people and to expand my knowledge of engineering. It is also interesting to challenge myself and help people in the process.”

By mobilizing TOM Communities worldwide, TOM:Tikkun Olam Makers ( seeks to address neglected challenges and develop millions of affordable technological solutions for people with disabilities around the globe. Established in 2014, TOM is a strategic initiative of the Reut Group, a Tel Aviv-based innovative policy and strategy group creating and scaling models to ensure prosperity and resilience for Israel and the Jewish People while courageously pursuing a vision to positively impact the lives of 250 Million people in a decade. 

Earlier Event: March 29
TOM:Holon 2017
Later Event: April 20
TOM:Bulgaria 2017