After months of planning, FRC Team 135’s Mission to Engineer team hopped on a plane to sunny Orlando, Florida to present at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) conference. The ATIA conference is a gathering of Assistive Technology vendors, Occupational Therapists (OT), Physical Therapists (PT), educators, and people with a wide range of disabilities.

Exhibit Hall

The largest attraction at this conference was the Exhibit Hall where hundreds of companies (including Google, Microsoft, and AbleNet) promoted their assistive technology devices and software to other vendors and medical professionals. Browsing around the Exhibit Hall, we were able to learn a lot about the current products on the market in the assistive technology community and how they can be implemented into people’s daily lives.

Presenter (McKenna Hillsdon-Smith) demonstrating an adapted toy.

The heart and soul of ATIA, however, is the abundance of presentations that are held throughout the week. Being one of the two FRC teams presenting, Team 135 was honored with a 90 minute presentation slot at this highly esteemed conference. With an involved audience, we were able to tell our assistive technology story starting from Hand of Grace (2015), going all the way to current day with Innovations for Isaiah (2019). We were also able to promote our ever growing network of FIRST Robotics Competition teams able to help us with our cause.

Presenters (Josefine Eskildsen and McKenna Hillsdon-Smith) speaking with an attendee at the MaKer Day 2.0.

On the final day of the conference, our partner ATMakers (founded by Bill Binko), invited us back to the Exhibit Hall with a booth at their Maker Day 2.0. This is a widely loved part of ATIA where attendees get to learn more about what goes into making many of the simple devices assistive technology uses. Makers Making Change held the “learn to solder” booth, while others held booths about instamorph and 3D printing. Team 135’s Mission to Engineer team held a presentation booth with a demo of our outreach robot named “Kiwi.” We talked to a lot of incredibly supportive attendees, and we’re excited to return to ATIA next year.