Team 135 has had a long history of building assistive technology, from our Hand of Grace project to our current Engineering Ella project. Our first assistive technology creation was a prosthetic arm designed to help a young girl, Grace Hildreth, gain more mobility and independence. Everywhere Grace went, she would struggle to interact with her peers due to this physical disability. This was our first ever assistive technology project and opened our eyes to a much bigger world around us.
A year later, we were approached by a young boy named Braylen. Braylen was diagnosed with Joubert’s Syndrome, a disease leading to the underdevelopment of the cerebellar vermis and a malformed brain stem, as a young kid. This disease left him unable to talk and unable to carry heavy objects. To allow Braylen to communicate with his peers, his parents bought him a communication tablet called an Accent 800. However, this tablet was 8 pounds and far too heavy for him to carry throughout his day. This reduced the effectiveness of the device considering he couldn’t take it to recess, a vital time for him to communicate with his friends. To allow him to communicate more frequently through his day, Team 135 built him a rolling desk that he could take anywhere.
Our most recent project has been nationally recognized as Engineering Ella. Ella has Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) Type 1, a disease resulting in a lack of motor neurons in her muscles, leaving her paralyzed and unable to speak. The secret for Ella is that in order for her to build muscle, she must start in an environment eliminating all forces. Therapeutic devices needed to eliminate the effect of gravity, which meant innovative and original designs along with lots of building and testing. We have been working closely with Ella for over a year now and have done power chair programming to enable her to drive with two fingers, therapeutic devices that help her build muscle, hand stabilizers to hold her hands and fingers stable while she drives, an alarm system for her feed tubes and a new bathtub table that allows her to do water therapy.
Each of these projects have and required all custom designs which helped to advance our knowledge in engineering and manufacturing. These projects have also taught us how rewarding it is to get to improve someone’s life. Time management, decision making, communication, and creativity are some of the many values these projects teach to those involved, and we are all better because of it. The reason all of these projects are so groundbreaking is because we are ONE of over 5,000 high school robotics teams that exist around the world and every single team has the resources necessary to create assistive technology.