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
The AT Department has a new tool! We are delighted to have a loan of a 3D printer to create Assistive Technology. (A 3D printer can manufacture objects by laying layers of plastic filament until the object is formed.) Thanks to Andrew Askedall, Senior Director of Product Design at MakerBot, the staff at Easterseals can now use computer assisted design to create switches, communication symbols, keyguards and more using the MakerBot Replicator +. We thank MakerBot for the loan and we thank the PA AT Foundation‘s CEO, Susan Tachau, for making the connection between MakerBot and Easterseals.
Even before we received the MakerBot 3D printer, six ES staff members attended a workshop on “3D printing and Assistive Technology” at the Franklin Institute in February. We learned to use a free CAD (computer aided design) program called Tinkercad and we began to expand our ideas of what we can create to meet the needs of our clients. We have begun to make many nifty items.
Andrew Askedall brought the 3D printer from Brooklyn as a loan to Easterseals. Here Andrew is demonstrating to Sandy Masayko how to set up the printer.
MakerBot Replicator+ 3D printer.
The MakerBot at work creating a bright pink keyguard to help our students activate their speech generating devices.
Easterseals staff members Laurie McGowan, Laura Slotkoff, Marcia Leinweber, Alesha Polles, Sandy Masayko and in front, George Russo, at the Franklin Institute at the February 21 workshop “3D Printing and AT” at the Franklin Institute. People are holding items made with the 3D printer (except for George, who is holding an item from another workshop).