Three-day makeathon creates specialized solutions for people with disabilities
Article by: Brian Cechmanek
The TOM:Calgary, run by local non-profit Kadima Dynamics, proudly celebrated Calgary’s spirit of innovation at its third annual makeathon event. Local engineers and designers (‘Makers’) collaborated with people living with disability (‘Need-Knowers’) to create real-life solutions for their everyday challenges.
From August 24-27, 13 teams of 4-6 individuals, hailing from communities across Alberta, came together for a continuous 72 hours of designing, testing, and building. They had access to fabrication equipment, materials, mentors, and not-quite-enough coffee. With the help of community sponsors, TOM was able to provide just enough of a budget for each team to create inclusive, affordable, and yet still innovative prototypes.
The challenges being tackled were suggested by Need-Knowers prior to the event, based on real problems they face that are often unaddressed by industry. These challenges are invisible to the public, either because they are highly specialized to the Need-Knower, or because the solutions that do exist are inaccessibly expensive. To address these issues, TOM gathers Makers from university students and industry professionals, including experts, mentors, and machinists.
The solutions developed by TOM’s Makers this year include a modified tricycle for a double lower-leg amputee, a remote blood glucose monitor for a young boy with diabetes, and a hands-free neck brace. TOM takes on challenges requiring 3D printing, machining, welding, programming, and sometimes even big data analysis. One such project (an ongoing initiative) is using Cybera’s Rapid Access Cloud to analyze terabytes of EEG (electroencephalography) data to better predict, and eventually avoid, severe migraine attacks.
TOM:Calgary 2017 proudly partnered with the Neil Squire Society and Makers Making Change to host a mini-buildathon, where high school students and undergraduates learned to solder together a Lipsync™ module. This mouth-operated joystick system is designed to assist users with limited use of their arms to operate a smartphone. All 20 devices that were created in just one weekend will be donated to users here in Calgary.
‘Tikkun Olam’ is a Hebrew concept that means “repairing the world”, which stresses our responsibility to leave the world a better place than we found it. Kadima, through TOM makeathons and other initiatives, wants to make Calgary the North American hub of inclusive design and technology. All prototypes developed at TOM makeathons have their designs uploaded to an open-source global repository, so that ideas can be freely proliferated and improved upon.