While learning about physics in Westchester Middle School Teacher Emily Frawley’s physical science class, eighth grade students became fascinated by the vast possibilities of 3D printing. The students were inspired after learning that 3D printers can now print items as large as furniture, entire neighborhoods, and astronaut living quarters on Mars.
Because the class was motivated to advance their knowledge beyond the topics of work, power, energy, and simple machines, Ms. Frawley decided to integrate a project where the eighth graders could design and print their own creations with Windward’s 3D printers. The class ultimately produced a number of assistive devices for people with mobility disorders and visual impairments to donate through the non-profit organization Makers Making Change.
The idea to create assistive devices stemmed from a personal experience for Ms. Frawley.
“I was recently diagnosed with a mobility disorder myself, and my doctor suggested I get some ring splints,” said Ms. Frawley. “I was horrified to learn that medical companies charge upwards of $250-300 for each one. I immediately realized I could probably make a design for 3D printing, which would mean each ring would cost a matter of cents.”
The eighth graders immersed themselves in studying resources provided by Makers Making Change and the Make:able 3D Printing Challenge to learn how engineers could help be a part of the solution to help individuals with disabilities get access to tools they need to increase independence in their daily life.
Ms. Frawley’s class printed a few designs, including a bottle opener, a key turner, and a pen ball grip. The bottle opener assists people with limited finger dexterity to open standard water bottle caps. The key turner is a tool for users to open doors with minimal wrist movement. The pen ball makes it easier for someone who has difficulty holding a pen or pencil directly to grip the utensil.
“While the students definitely enjoyed the design and printing aspects, I think it was reading and watching videos about peoples’ resilience despite the challenges they face that will stick with the kids the most,” said Ms. Frawley. “One of the designs that Makers Making Change offers is called a dyslexia bar, which isolates one line of text at a time. It really seemed to resonate with them even more when they realized that there are Makers out there designing solutions for them, too.”
The eighth graders were eager to learn about 3D printing for the first time but even more pleased to be able to fulfill requests for assistive devices through the Makers Making Change Program. On behalf of the students, Ms. Frawley shipped out the designs at the end of the school year to individuals with disabilities across the country.
Click here to view photos of the students working on their 3D objects and the final results.