by Kristine DelMonte
Disclaimer: I am not an Assistive Technology (AT) professional, nor am I an OT or a PT.
I work in Easterseals’ Development Department, working to cultivate volunteer experiences and corporate engagement.
But when I received an email from the AT Department looking for staff members to receive training on the 3D Printers we received last fall – thanks to a generous grant from the Comcast Foundation — I signed up right away.
Last week I participated in our first of three training sessions. There were about 11 of us plus the instructor, Marcia Leinweber, the 3D printing expert from the AT Department. I am pretty sure I was the LEAST knowledgeable person there, I’d never even seen the printer at work until that day. But judging from the energy in the room it was evident that the rest of the staff knew that what they were about to learn could provide solutions to some of tricky problems they face on a daily basis.
First, Marcia provided an overview of the many ways the printer can be used, and showed how it can be used to make assistive technology – from printing tactile books for kids with vision impairment, to printing pieces to fix therapeutic equipment, to printing switches used to adapt toys. Next, we logged on to a website called “Thingiverse” to discover the designs that we will print before the next class (we have homework!).
Using the 3D Printer isn’t likely to be part of my normal work day, but I am glad to be given the chance to more fully understand how to use it – and more importantly, to understand the many ways our staff can use it to make positive differences in the lives of the kiddos we serve.
When companies like Comcast invest in organizations like Easterseals, the kids we serve benefit in a million little ways. I can’t wait to see how our staff use the 3D printer to make assistive technology – and help our kids to be 100% included and 100% empowered.
How a project begins
One of the 3D printers made possible by the Comcast grant
by Sandy Masayko
The Assistive Technology Department, working in collaboration with our grant funder Comcast and our community partners Science Leadership Academy, Drexel University, Project Vive and MakerBot, is excited to report that our development of Maker Spaces at Easterseals SE PA is well underway! This project consists of two parts: Education of Easterseals staff and local high school student education to provide the basis for creation of Assistive Technology (AT); and setting up maker spaces at each Easterseals SE PA approved private school. The maker spaces will be supplied with 3D printers, soldering kits, moldable plastics, tools, and more. But before anyone can use this new high tech equipment, they need to learn how to design solutions to meet needs and the basics of use of the tools. To meet this need, the AT Department organized two workshops in the fall.
Workshop 1 was held at Drexel University’s Westphal College of Design in September and focused on 3D printing. After a review of AT by Sandy Masayko and an overview of the multiple use of 3D printers by Laurie McGowan, Laura Slatkoff shared her personal experiences in discovering 3D printing and using it to make a customized keyguard for a student. Marcia Leinweber introduced step by step instructions for Computer Assisted Design. Mary Elizabeth McCulloch of Project Vive presented concepts to consider in the design process. The thirty participants then got to work on their shared computers to design the top of a switch. AT Staff members, assisted by Science Leadership Academy (SLA) students who were familiar with 3D design, coached the participants. During the workshop, the SLA students increased their knowledge of AT, and they also videoed and photographed the workshop. At the end of the workshop, Easterseals staff members had homework to complete over the two months before the next workshop: participants were asked to finish their designs and email them to Marcia for printing on the Makerbot 3D printer.
The next workshop, held at SLA in November, allowed the participants to complete their design by constructing a switch for AT. Switch assembly necessitated soldering and wiring of the switch, activities taught by Mary Elizabeth and Joey McCulloch from Project Vive. The participants also learned what tools were in the Maker Spaces and how to use them. Laurie McGowan led participants in creating battery interrupters that can be used to enable toys and devices to be activated with a switch. Sandy introduced how to use a moldable plastic that can be used to create adaptations. As with the first workshop, the SLA students proved to be great coaches to ES staff members as they learned to wire and solder.
Response by the staff to the workshop was overwhelmingly positive. In our pre and post testing for each workshop, the staff members indicated that they significantly increased their knowledge of AT, 3 D printing and tools for creating solutions for people with disabilities. The next phase of the project will be establishment of the Maker Spaces at each approved private school sites. We can’t wait to see what our staff will create!
Classroom space donated by Drexel University Westphal College provided an ideal location for participants to engage in education and design. (Workshop 1)
Occupational Therapist Laura Slotkoff displaying keyguards she created through 3D printing. (Workshop 1)
Participants collaborated on Computer Assisted Design following a guide developed by Marcia Leinweber. (Workshop 1)
SLA students and teachers provided coaching to Easterseals staff to design switch tops. (Workshop 1)
In Workshop 2 participants learned about materials that would be in their Maker Spaces.
Mary Elizabeth from Project Vive taught soldering and switch assembly to ES staff members in Workshop 2.
SLA students coached ES therapists.
Laurie McGowan taught participants how to make a battery interrupter in Workshop 2.
Therapists learned to use moldable plastic to adapt devices and handles.
Success! The battery interrupter and switch work!
by Sandy Masayko
These beautiful customized chairs and slant boards not only meet children’s seating needs, they reflect the children’s interests and are very attractive. All of this adaptive design work has been done by our talented and valuable Cardboard Fairy, Dorothy Hess, who meets with the children’s therapists to determine best seating. Thank you, Dorothy, for continuing to work with the children who are served by Easterseals!
by Sandy Masayko
The Cardboard Fairy, also known as Dorothy Hess, is still spreading her magic around to Easterseals children. Her latest creations include custom-made chairs, trays, benches and steps. Dorothy is not only a talented designer, she is also an artist who decorates her creations with pictures of items that have special meaning to the child or family. She has fabricated items for children in our schools as well as young children in the community. We are grateful for Dorothy’s work and dedication in creating beautiful and functional equipment.
Dorothy holding some of her work
A custom slant board
Decorated custom stool
by Sandy Masayko
Thanks to Project Vive, our wonderful volunteer partners from State College, Easterseals students will soon be driving their adapted vehicles again. After a year of hard use, the cars needed some repairs, and those repairs were beyond the abilities of our AT Team.
So Project Vive came to the rescue! Braving the perils of the Schuylkill Expressway at rush hour, Project Vive came by van in mid May to transport the adapted cars back to State College where the engineers at Project Vive could repair starters, switches and driving mechanisms. The engineers will be adapting some of the cars with new capabilities such as joystick control. The volunteers took a few other broken items with them as well as the cars.
Three cars have already been returned to the Yaffe Center. We are very grateful for the help we get from Project Vive staff.
We will be working with Project Vive to test out some of their unique augmentative/ alternative communication products. For more information about the exciting work that Project Vive is doing to design low cost augmentative communication, visit their website
Check out the pictures of the Project Vive volunteers loading up our kiddie cars into their van, and some of the refurbished cars upon return to Yaffe Center.
by Kirstyn O’Donnell
When 3:30 p.m. hits and my shift at Easterseals is done for the day, home is the last thing on my mind. Almost every other day, I am on my way to an Odyssey of the Mind meeting, that myself and my friend coach. What is Odyssey of the Mind? In short, it’s a sport for your mind. It’s a team everyone can join from kindergarten to twelfth grade to problem solve in a creative way. They use those problem solving skills in a skit that they perform later in the year at regional competition.
On Monday, March 19th, the Pennsbury High School Odyssey of the Mind students visted Easterseals with three boxes of Spring Meal Packages. The Students- Rowan Leventhal, Sarah Uhlman, Danielle Gershman, Becca Uhlman, and Noah Petroski, gathered food for over two weeks with the full intention of giving their donations to some Easterseals families. When the students arrived at the school, they sorted a big box that was overflowing with food into thee separate boxes. Then they were able to tour the school. The air was filled with question after question as they learned about what the staff at Easterseals provides to the children in our community. They were able to see what the school has to offer and were in awe to see the classrooms, the gym and the sensory room.
The students were also able to see some of the equipment that the children use daily, such as standers and gait trainers. They learned how and why these items are used. What they loved most about Easterseals was how the staff finds creative ways to help the children progress in their daily lives. The students later told me that Easterseals was something that they have never experienced before. In that hour and a half of time, they learned something that was very important. They learned that no matter who you are, or how old you may be, giving back to your community is always important. One thing is for sure, Easterseals impacted their lives and they are very excited to return one day in the future!
students working on their donations.
by Susan Lowenstein
What if I were to tell you that there is a cardboard fairy that visits Easterseals in Bucks County every few weeks? She delivers hand-made adaptive equipment created out of cardboard that our children can use during their day at school to be more successful. You would think I have lost my mind. But it’s true! Well, sort of true. The material that this “fairy” uses is a sturdier and thicker version of cardboard called tri-wall. It can be purchased from stores like Staples or Lowe’s, but has to be specially ordered. So…have I piqued your curiosity? Want to learn more about our “cardboard fairy”?
Her name is Dorothy Hess. She was a Pharmaceutical marketing executive for many years, but now that she is retired, she is using her creativity and resourcefulness as well as her artistic abilities to help the children at Easterseals achieve their full potential! How does she do this, you ask?
Dorothy completed a 3 day volunteer training through a company called Adaptive Design Association. It was this training, along with her own problem solving and analytic skills, that have prepared her to come to Easterseals to design and create various products for our children. Some examples include:
- A completely customized chair for young boy named Javohn who attends our APS program. We were having difficulty fitting him in any of our other student chairs. Javohn has shorter legs and arms, but a longer torso compared to his typically developing peers. We had trialed him in many of our chairs, even those that were adjustable, but we were unable to give him the support that he needed to sit upright in class. But never fear, the “cardboard fairy” is here! Not only was Dorothy able to create a chair that fit this young student perfectly, she painted the entire chair and even hand drew an Elmo on the side of it, just to give it that fantastic preschool look!
- Full length adjustable back supports, mounted directly to the back of our standing frames that we use with children who are unable to stand without support. These back supports have helped make it easier for our staff to position children in our standers, while providing the additional back support that some of our kids need to stand in optimal alignment.
- A customized tray for an adaptive chair which for some time we were unable to use secondary to a broken tray (the product had been discontinued). This is just the first prototype of hopefully many more trays to come, as we have several more chairs that need new trays in order to be used for our children’s educational activities.
The cardboard fairy already has several other projects in the works for us. I can’t wait to see what she brings next time she visits!