about the event
The TOM NYC Makeathon was one of many makeathon events put on by the Tikkun Olam Makers organization based out of Tel Aviv. These events are three-day long sprints during which teams of 4-6 students, makers, engineers, and designers prototype solutions to specific issues brought up by need-knowers with some form of disability.
A group of engineers, designers, and our need-knower, Nij, put together by the Tikkun Olam Makeathon organizers, including several Cornell engineering students as well as a couple engineers and designers working in the industry.
Our team was tasked with creating an assistive device to aid in elbow extension, grip strength, and wrist stabilization for Nij. Nij is an active guy, but his cerebral palsy made lifting weights unsafe due to the disparity in strength between his left and right side.
In a whirlwind of a weekend, we designed, prototyped, and tested several ideas, barely sleeping and running on adrenaline and free snacks. Though rudimentary, our final prototype ended up increasing the strength in Nij’s right arm, which we proved using Mio sensors and wall push-up tests.
The experience solidified my passion for innovation and design specifically in assistive technology, while giving me valuable practice working in teams and hitting tight deadlines. It was also a fantastic experience in doing a form of codesign. Because the person the end-product was being designed for was part of our team, he was a part of every step of the design process, from understanding exactly what needs we were trying to meet to designing the form of the brace to testing. This showed me the importance of understanding and including your users, which applies to all kinds of design far beyond just adaptive technology.