TOM:Calgary 2015


  • Calgary Canada

In collaboration with TOM Global, Makerbus Calgary, Maker Faire, and Calgary Jewish Federation, four teams were brought together to select and solve a problem posed by a person with a disability.

Over the course of three days, makers, inventors, engineers and designers were provided with workspace and resources to fabricate, prototype and test their chosen solution.

This was a one-of-a kind experience for everyone involved. Participants exercised a host of practical skills and problem solving strategies and left feeling empowered that they can indeed make the world a little better.


Winter Wheelchair: Dana, a 3 year-old girl with Rett Syndrome, loves being outside, and especially during winter. This is difficult for her family, as Calgary will get heavy, deep snowfalls overnight or within a few hours.

The Solution:The team created a means for Dana’s wheelchair to roll into and fasten to a frame designed for winter transportation.  The frame has very wide snowboard ends underneath each of the front wheels of the wheelchair to compress and glide over snow, and two wide-treaded bicycle tires per side of her wheelchair, allowing more surface area for contact and traction.

“TOM provided the opportunity for us to be fully integrated with the project team, involving us in the design and decision–making processes, which was unique in that it made us feel empowered, fulfilled, and included during this exciting challenge. The ingenuity, experience and enthusiastic hard work of the TOM teams enabled the design and production of a very useful piece of custom equipment on a tight budget in a very short period of time.”

Team Members: Colin France, Michael Poscente, Brian Cechmanek, Nabeela Nathoo


Project Gloria: Gloria is legally blind. She explained that falls are common among the visually impaired, and knee problems are common due to falling too much. Two problems with traditional tools for the visually impaired were identified: The first is that seeing canes often get caught on cracks or bumps, which can lead to falls. The second is that “smartcanes”, which provide audio warnings of obstacles, are expensive, difficult to learn, and embarrassing or ineffective in public or noisy environments.

The Solution: The team successfully built a first model of their new tool, termed “The Excalibur.” The design incorporates a flexible ski-like attachment to the bottom of a traditional seeing cane so that the cane won’t catch on cracks or bumps. It also incorporates input sensors to detect obstacles ahead, and output sensors to provide personal tactile feedback to the user’s hand. The device essentially taps the user at an increasing frequency the closer she (or he) moves to an obstacle at knee or waist height.

Team Members: Gloria Rubio, Rachel Chan, Nicole Belanger, Andrea Cartaya, Juan Carlos, Terrazas, Victor Vanorio, Jorge Zapote


Early Riser: An economical system was needed to help an individual with Parkinson’s Disease to sit up in bed without use of an expensive mechanical hospital-style bed.

The user will be able to grab hold of a bar above his/her bed that, with an electric pulley system, will aid in lifting him/her into a sitting position.

Team Members: Maryam Aden, Ahmed Almahdi, Paul Parkin, Yousra Alyanaai, Rose Austin, Bill Austin


Pool Accessibility: A duo of need-knowers approached the T.O.M. Calgary team with an interesting challenge. Both individuals were wheelchair-bound with spinal cord injuries, and both individuals loved to swim. Pool accessibility is a challenge for those in wheelchairs, although swimming is an activity that allows them great mobility and freedom. “Water-wheelchairs” are one method for entering a swimming pool, however these can only be used at facilities that have been built with a ramp leading into the water. Another tool is a large motorized lowering tool that looks like a “back-hoe”. The issue with this is that it is expensive and prone to tipping and falling into the water. The desired solution would be something small and economical that could be utilized at any of the city’s public swimming pools for an individual to self-transfer him or herself into the water.

The Solution: A motorized electrical system was vetoed as a solution to this challenge, as the proximity to water and risk of malfunctioning when wet was not desirable. Instead, a simple mechanical lever hoist device was proposed. The only assistance that the user needs is a helper to attach the lever hoist to an anchor point above the user’s head (by use of a rated climbing rope secured around a diving board structure). A sling is positioned underneath the user and attached to the lever hoist. From there, the user can pull the lever until his or her weight is transferred from the wheelchair to the sling, push the wheelchair aside, and then use the lever to lower him or herself in a controlled manner towards the water. The sling/lever-hoist system can also be used for water-to-wheelchair transfers, with the help of an assistant to hold the wheelchair steady.

Team Members: Courtney MacDonald, Nik Makin, Sumair Ajanee

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