Education

Assistive Technology -- High School Engineering Design Project using the "Makey Makey"

PROJECT OVERVIEW

High school students design appropriate Assistive Technology solutions for elementary students with physical and cognitive disabilities.

WHO

Ten high school students enrolled in a year-long Computer Science course taught by Joe Speier at the Asheville School , a college preparatory school located in West Asheville. These ten students participated in a special project-based Engineering Design class taught by Tom Heck during the month of May 2014.

Working in teams, the Asheville School students designed and and built prototypes of appropriate Assistive Technology solutions for exceptional students enrolled at Hall Fletcher Elementary School (HFE) located in Asheville, NC. The design solutions were intended to help students interact with computer programs (games) in new ways. We worked closely with Kelly Blount and Amy Floyd, the HFE teaching team, throughout the project. This project is endorsed by Dr. Gordon Grant, the principal at HFE.

BACKGROUND

Jason Webb developed a “DIY Assistive Technology project” outlined in detail HERE. Inspiration for this project came from Jason's work.

Lucas Steuber is a colleague of Jason Webb's, and like Jason, is also blazing a trail with DIY Assistive Technology. Lucas runs the Portland Language Lab and was very helpful throughout this project. 

The Assistive Technology prototypes we created utilized a versatile computer interface design platform called a Makey Makey which was developed at the MIT Media Lab. The Makey Makey is a $50 invention kit for the 21st century. It turns everyday objects into touchpads allowing for quick prototyping of creative Assistive Technology solutions. 

I was inspired by Purdue University's "EPICS" High School program (Engineering Projects in Community Service) which teaches human centered design and engineering by getting students out into the community to solve real problems for real people.

During this short course I introduced the students to Stanford University's Design School process which is outlined in this 44 page PDF.

SCHEDULE

April 1-30 -- I call a list of agencies who can help me connect with a group of students with physical disabilities. These agencies include: FIRST Community Resource Center, Asheville City Schools Foundation, Buncombe County School's Progressive Education Program (PEP), Asheville City Schools Exceptional Children's Program, Care Partners, Buncombe County Schools "Special Services", Mission Children's Hospital, Muscular Dystrophy Association, Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, North Carolina Assistive Technology Program, Disability PartnersCarolina Pediatric Therapy, and others. I worked with Charlie Glazener, the media contact for the Asheville City Schools system to secure permission to take photos and video of the elementary students and I worked with Charlie to get the media to the May 15 event (ABC TV and local paper).

May 1, 2014 -- Class # 1 (90 min.) Asheville School students board a bus and travel to HFE to meet with the teachers and students. The goal for this trip was to build rapport and empathy (step #1 of the Stanford D-School process). 

May 2 -- Class # 2 (45 min.) Asheville School students are introduced to the Makey Makey.

May 8 -- Class # 3 (90 min.) Asheville School students select the game they intend to play and begin building prototype. 

May 12 -- Class # 4 (45 min.) Asheville School students refine designs and test each other's designs. Prepare for Class #5 (return to HFE). 

May 15 -- Class #5 (90 min.) Asheville School students travel to HFE by bus and meet with the students to test their prototypes (see video above). 

May 19 -- Class #6 (45 min.) Asheville School students debrief the experience. 

RESOURCES

Jason Webb's "Instructable" on DIY Assistive Technology HERE

Another resource from Jason HERE

Overview of the MaKey MaKey for educators of students with diverse needs HERE

Lucas Steuber's Assistive Technology website HERE

DIY Ability website HERE

MaKey MaKey website HERE

MaKey MaKey Forums HERE

MaKey MaKey for Computer Access workshop (video) HERE  -- NOTE: A guest on this show is one of the developers of the Makey Makey!

Dr. Amy Hurst at the University of Maryland Baltimore is doing amazing work around DIY Assistive Technology.

Switch Accessible Games

Car (driving) games HERE

Hall Fletcher Elementary Games HERE

Learn how to download flash games HERE

RESEARCH: Evaluating Accessibility in Fabrication Tools for Children (click link below)

Download RESEARCH Evaluating Accessibility in Fabrication Tools for Children

DIY Pressure Plate Switches HERE 

GAMES

The following is a list of computer games we were prepared to play with the HFE students. 

Hopper Beetle  Download Hopper_Beetle

Ultimate Baseball  Download Ultimate_baseball

Dance Revolution  Download Dance_revolution

Dance of the Robots  Download Dance_of_the_Robots

Fruit Basket  Fruit Basket Game

Piano for Makey Makey  Piano

Bongos  Bongos

Trebuchet Launch  Download Castle-clout

Photo Gallery

 View the photo gallery of this project HERE.

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Television

WLOS, the local ABC affiliate, sent a reporter and film team out to the event. The video report will soon be posted here.

Print Media

The Asheville School posted a great story with photos on their website HERE.

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A brief mention of this project appeared in the Asheville Citizen Times. Click on the image below to enlarge.

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WLOS TV, the local ABC news affiliate, did a story on this project.

 

Longer video showing students using the Assistive Technology devices:

 

more soon...


Asheville Makers Learn To Solder Workshop at the West Asheville Library

On March 20, 2014 Asheville Makers led a "Learn To Solder" event at the West Asheville Library.

It was the first free and open to the public learn how to solder event ever held in Asheville and it was a huge success.

We had students age 8 to 80 learning how to solder a blinking "robot badge"  found at the Maker Shed

Because of generous donations from area businesses, this event was free! Big thank you goes out to Efficiency Lab and On Haywood.

Thank you to all of our great soldering teachers. Without you this would not have been the great event it was. 

Avi Silverman and Tom Heck of Asheville Makers recently met with representatives of the Asheville City - Buncombe County Library System who are very excited about the Maker Movement. We'll be partnering to lead more free and open to the public events!

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Hovercraft Workshop at A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School of Engineering

On March 12,  2014 I visited  A.J. Whittenberg Elementary School of Engineering in Greenville, SC and led three 90 minute hovercraft workshops (one for each of the three 5th grade classes).

Read an article about this amazing school in The Atlantic  CLICK HERE

 

Here's the 2 minute highlight video: 

The workshop starts with a discussion comparing Engineering and Science. We then discuss the Engineering Design Process and compare it to the Scientific Method. Then we discuss friction and determine if it is good or bad. This leads to a discussion about hovercrafts, friction, and "lift". Then we start building mini hovercrafts out of old CDs and balloons. 

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We then discuss the difference between "lift" and "thrust" -- both are critical for hovercraft locomotion. Students experiment with a balloon as it provides thrust.

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With an understanding of lift and thrust it's time to ride the big hovercraft powered by a leaf blower.

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At the end of the day I led a 60 minute workshop for the teaching staff on "How To Teach Leadership in the Engineering Classroom". This is a fun, experiential workshop that got the teachers talking about leadership and teamwork in their classroom. I led activities found in the IATF Team Building Games Archive found inside the IATF Members Only Area

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Big thanks to Mr. Hamilton Parks of A.J. Whittenberg School of Engineering who made this day possible. 

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