For more information on TOM:Berkeley 2017, visit berkeley.tomglobal.org
For children with autism, communication in school can be a difficult task. Many kids rely on a physical letterboard, a laminated sheet of paper on which students can point out letters that are then relayed by an aide. Not only is the process slow, it severely limits the autonomy of autistic students and relies heavily on the assistance of an aide. To help facilitate more autonomy in the classroom, the autism letterboard team developed a digitized touchscreen letterboard powered by a Raspberry Pi. Rather than pointing out a letter to an aide, the digital letterboard allows students to touch letters that are then recorded instantly by the computer, both speeding up the process of communication and reducing the reliance on aides in the classroom.
Alvaro, an MBA student at the Haas School of Business, is quadriplegic with limited motion in his shoulders. He enjoys hand cycling, but current gear shifting mechanisms rely heavily on wrist and grip strength. For Alvaro, this means going for a ride requires a second cyclist to ride alongside him who can reach over and shift the gears for him. The auto shift team, steeped in mechanical engineering experience, developed a gear shift solution using his elbows. The next steps in development for the team include a voice activated solution.
Bliss is a mom to three kids, a full-time doctor and is Hemipalegic. When Bliss takes her children out grocery shopping in San Francisco, she finds it difficult to manage both her kids and groceries while navigating city streets in her wheelchair. Looking for solutions in the past, Bliss was turned off by bulky devices that require permanent attachment to her chair – Bliss requires a solution that can be easily added and removed when needed. The grocery helper team – all brothers of the professional engineering fraternity Theta Tau – developed a solution with only one permanent component – a small, unintrusive metal plate mounted to the back of Bliss’ chair. A swinging basket can be easily added and removed from the plate, providing Bliss a place to place her groceries that can easily be swung to the back of the chair while she carries her kids home on her lap.
Owen, a Berkeley-based filmmaker and self-taught engineer, can only interface with technology when using his wheelchair. He uses a customized joystick attached to his wheelchair and controlled by his chin. Because Owen spends a lot of time at home outside of his wheelchair, this quickly becomes limiting. But Owen, who developed his engineering prowess by developing solutions to challenges he found in his own life, doesn’t like to think small – in addition to a non-wheelchair-exclusive technology interface, Owen is also looking for ways to automate devices around his house through an app. To tackle Owen’s multi-faceted challenge, the HouseAUTO team – Team Hada – split into multiple sub-teams throughout the weekend, working on developing everything from a mechanical arm to attach to Owen’s wheelchair, to connecting his joystick to a tablet interface, to setting up a server to control all of the peripheral devices, to hacking into Owen’s door to better connect it to his new home automation system.
For people with limited to no arm and leg function, a robotic arm attached to a wheelchair can function as a backup working limb. Unfortunately, solutions currently on the market can cost upwards of $50,000, making them unrealistic for many people to purchase. Desktop arms exist and are often cheaper, but are weaker and have a limited range of motion. Need-Knower Jade created the first prototype of JARL before the makeathon with Owen, the Need-Knower for HouseAUTO, and built off of that knowledge at TOM:Berkeley with the new JARL team. Unlike past prototypes which were non-functional skeletons, this JARL model is equipped with two degrees of freedom and a laser pointer at the end to make operation easier and more accurate. The JARL team’s minimum viable product is a robotic limb that can press elevator buttons, achieved through the two degrees of freedom.
Leg Bag Emptier
Rafe sustained a spinal cord injury while traveling through India 10 years ago. He uses a leg bag connected to a catheter. Current devices, Rafe explained, are unreliable and can be difficult to operate. If the mechanism breaks, as it does from time to time, Rafe – and other users – must send in the device to be repaired, leaving them without an autonomous solution for a week or longer. Some current devices are also unreliable in determining whether or not the leg bag is full. If the detector mechanism fails, urine can become backed up in the user’s bladder, potentially leading to serious health complications if not treated soon enough. The challenge required the leg bag team to develop a solution that is easy, quick, reliable, and completely sanitary. Sensors on the bag controlled by an Arduino connect to Rafe’s iPhone, where he can use an app that keeps track of the last time the bas was emptied and how full it currently is.
Malia is 11 years old and has severe Cerebral Palsy, which often makes it difficult for people to understand her when she speaks. In school, Malia uses an eye-gaze tracking device to communicate, but the solution is inaccurate, impersonal, and limits her ability to chat with her friends. To help Malia communicate more accurately and more fully, the speech translator team developed software to learn from and adapt to her voice, understand what she is saying, and translate it to others around her. The team developed an algorithm that takes in samples of Malia’s voice and trains itself to pick up on the nuances of her speech.
When Jill’s parents travel, taking their toilet and shower chair with them is difficult – many models aren’t made to collapse, and must be disassembled and reassembled once they’ve reached their destination. Because they were not designed for portability, most are also very heavy and cumbersome, making travel even more difficult. To facilitate easier, hassle-free travel, the travel commode team developed an inexpensive and lightweight commode that can be easily broken down into parts that fit into a standard backpack or carry-on bag. Once Jill’s parents have arrived at their destination, the device is easy to reassemble without needing a screwdriver or any tools besides a small hex wrench. The team’s device is also much less expensive than similar products on the market.