Geek Dad

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...


Nerf Assault Vehicle

Our father-son group gathers once a year for a massive Nerf dart battle in a gym. One year I build this Nerf Assault Vechicle (NAV) using a Krazy Kar and a cardboard box. The only problem was it  was too small for  adults to ride!

 


"Adventures of a Geek Dad" -- my IGNITE Asheville 2013 talk

On February 19, 2013  I spoke at IGNITE Asheville

My talk was entitled "Adventures of a Geek Dad" and I won 1st place! The crazy thing is, I tried to back out of this event a couple of times. I honestly didn't think many people would be interested in what I had to say.

Although I've given many talks, this one was among the most difficult to prepare for and deliver. 

The difficulty stemmed from the format:  5 minutes long and slides auto advance every 20 seconds. 5 minutes is such a short amount of time. Every word counts. You'll see in the video that I got behind / out of sync with my slides - - so easy to do.

Assembling my slides took way longer then expected because I realized I had too much to say in 5 minutes and that meant I had too many slides. I had to eliminate, pair down, refine, etc. Not easy for a guy that likes to talk a lot.

The event organizers (all great people) provided a speaking coach and she was AWESOME. Her name is Angie Flynn-McIver of Executive Repertory. Angie met with me one-on-one and listened to my talk and asked me to make a couple of simple yet important changes. 

Here are a few resources that helped a lot:

Scott Berkun -- Why And How To Give An IGNITE Talk

Scott Berkun's blog post on the same subject

IGNITE's tips for beginners

Jason Grigsby's "How To Give a Successful Ignite Presentation"

I bounced some ideas off of Ken Denmead at GeekDad.com (Thank you Ken!).

The biggest realization I had was how vulnerable I felt talking about parenting, my kids, and doing geeky stuff with my kids. The place was sold out with 420 in attendance and I just wasn't used to talking on a subject so personal in front of so many people. 

Towards the end of my talk you'll see me get a little choked up when the slide of my daughter's thank you card is on the screen. That was a surprise. I practiced my talk so many times and not once did I have an emotional reaction to my daughter's card. Sharing that image with hundreds of people really did get me connected with why I do this Geek Dad stuff - - it's a great way to spend time with my kids.

 You'll hear me mention the weekend Hovercraft Project and the Adventure Tower project. 


Near Space Balloon Launch

In the fall of 2012 I helped a group of middle school students send a GoPRO HD video camera to "near space".  What follows are the details of the project.

Here is the 3 minute video showing the highlights of the launch and recovery:

Asheville, NC Tedx Near Space Project from Peter Lutz on Vimeo.

 

 

Project Facts:

  • 1200 gram latex weather balloon was filled with 150 cubic feet of helium -- weather balloon was approximately 6 feet in diameter at lift off.
  • Payload was an off-the-shelf styrofoam cooler that was modified for this project.
  • Payload weighed 4 pounds.
  • Payload contents included: GoPRO Hero 2 HD video camera with a 32 GB memory card and extra battery pack, SPOT gps unit, PocketFinder gps unit, personal items from each student
  • Launched on Sat Oct 27, 2012 at 9:20 am EST
  • Launching location:  Francine Delany New School for Children Charter School (www.fdnsc.net) in Asheville, NC
  • This project was a collaboration between the school and TEDx Asheville 2012.

more coming...


Tethered helium balloons carry a small video camera

 

This tethered balloon project was inspired by the book GEEK DAD by Ken Denmead.

In the fall of 2012 I volunteered to help Asheville, North Carolina middle school science and math teacher Tom Robertson and his students launch a weather balloon to near space.

This project was connected to TEDx Asheville 2012 (www.tedxasheville.com) where the theme was "the EDGE".   The conference explored all things relating to "the EDGE" including near space.

This tethered balloon project was done on the first meeting with the students (an elective class).  The goal was to get everyone excited about sending video cameras up high and retrieving them to watch the recordings.

The big helium balloon was purchased at a local party supply store for $8.  I thought one balloon would be able to easily lift my little point and shoot camera but, as you'll see from the video, one balloon struggled.

Later that same day I went back to the party store and purchased a second ballon and launched the camera again at a school picnic and had better results.

I plan to do this again with 4 large balloons and I'll work on a system to stabilize the camera (it did a lot of spinning).  With 4 large balloons it will be easy to send the camera hundreds of feet up (quickly).

Stay tuned for video of the near space balloon launch!


How to convert a Lego storage box into a Lego Lunchbox

My son has always loved playing with Legos so it didn't take much to convince him to allow me to convert one of his old Lego containers into a lunchbox. 

I needed closed cell foam to act as insulation and I found a 1/4 x 20 x 15 sheet ($6.25) of it at my local outdoor gear shop. I was able to cut six pieces out of this one piece of foam.

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Originally I thought of gluing the foam into the container but quickly decided that would turn into a mess when it was time to wash it.  I ended up sewing a sleeve to hold the four side panels and the bottom panel. 

I used waterproof nylon (not "ripstop" as stated in the video) to sew the sleeve.  The original size of the nylon was 18.5 x 26 inches.  I sewed the sleeve so that I could remove all the foam and wash the sleeve.  The sleeve fits snugly inside the Lego container.

The lunchbox handle is made from one inch wide flat nylon webbing and is attached to the Lego box using a pop rivet tool.  I have a feeling this attachment point may fail quickly but we'll see.

I've included a video and extra photos (below) if you're interested in more details.

 

Creating the Lego Lunchbox...

Here's what the Lego box looked like before I started.

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Closed cell foam sheet measuring 1/4 x 20 x 15 was able to supply all the material I needed for the insulation.  You'll notice the four side panels have a keystone shape - - they are 8.25 inches tall and 6 inches wide at the top and 5.5 inches wide at the bottom.  The small square is the bottom and the large square is the top (just under the lid).

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I needed to leave gaps in the insulation to allow for the folding fabric sleeve.

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Sewing the sleeve.

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Completed sleeve which hold the insulation panels. Notice bottom flap is sewn to one side panel.  All foam pieces can be removed so the sleeve can be washed easily.

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The handle is one inch wide flat nylon webbing.  I attached the webbing to the box using a pop rivet tool.

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This view is the under side of the box and shows a flat aluminum bar intended to reinforce the attachment point of the lunchbox strap.

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Check out this cool contraption my brother-in-law created.  It helps keep Lego pieces from going everywhere.  Super useful. My son loves this thing.  Collectigo.com

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