First of all, I’d really love to express my thanks to all the guest speakers that we had in this class and professor Marianne Petit who led me to this awesome class and shared many helpful resources with us. I personally love this class really much because I’ve been thinking of designing an assistive product for disabled people since I once saw patients in rehabilitation center doing their best to get well. One of my family members suffered from cerebral hemorrhage two years ago and there were some sequelae. Having spent months in rehabilitation center, I knew many patients were eager to get completely well, or at least, could live their own lives without the help of others. Therefore, that’s what I think assistive technology is supposed to help with. Throughout this 7-week course, from my understanding, what I learned about assistive tech is that it is designed and developed to assist people with disablities in communicaton, education, work, recration and daily living tasks, and in essence, help people with disabilities to be independent and enhance the quality of their life.
During visiting CereCare, we met some children having problems holding utensils or stationery steadily, and since Jeffrey has been into topics of food, we decided to design a product (prototype) for those children at CereCare who have the ability to hold things but could not hold it firmly to grab things easily.
Project Name: Adaptive Utensil
Name: Zihe Quintus Wang
Partner: Jeffrey Kung, Zeerak Fayiz
Project Description: Adaptive Utensil is an assistive device designed for kids at CereCare who are suffering from cerebral palsy to hold utensils easily and firmly. With a universal squeezable handle, there are various interchangeable heads which allow children to switch between different utensils like fork and spoon.
Drill that has interchangeable heads
Squeezable balls that provide a comfortable feeling and solid connection with hands
I went back to CereCare to observe children’s behavior when eating and found some children were not our target users – children who are capable of eating by themselves; children who are not able to hold utensils and need to be fed by teachers. I definitely wanted to think about a way and another assistive technology for the latter group of children, however, at the current status, we could only focus on our target children.
We divided the creation of our project into three broad steps: sketches,1st iteration of prototype, and 2nd iteration of prototype.
In the beginning, we had a bunch of ideas and it was really hard to figure out where and how to begin. So Jeffrey recommended that we draw out different ideas to get things started. While drawing, we thought of like 5 different prototypes with different mechanisms that would allow the switching out of utensil heads. However, what we came to realize soon after was that many of the ideas we had in mind would be too advanced for a first or second iteration of prototype and that we should start with basic materials first.
1st iteration of prototype:
For the first version, we used a hard paper type roll for the base, followed by tape, a metal fork, foam, and a bottle cap.
The prototype was very easy to put together, however, a lot of concerns arose once it was complete. Firstly, the fork was non-interchangeable. Secondly, the foam had no protective layer on top of it, making it completely unwashable. So for our next prototype, we went ahead to address those issues.
2nd iteration of prototype + materials
The second iteration of our prototype was a little harder to put together, but it was more sturdy and complete as compared to the first version.
- PVC pipe – it behaves as a base in the handle which provides a solid structure so users could hold it, also, in case of the PVC burr hurt children, we also used sandpaper to sand the edge so it was pretty smooth;
- Foam – this is the second layer of the handle which is over PVC pipe and it provides a fluffy feeling when users hold it in hands and squeeze; since foam is easily shaped and could fit into different hand shapes, the other usage is to prevent from falling down from users’ hands;
- Plastic utensils – considering food safety and protecting children from hurting themselves, we’ve decided to use plastic utensils head instead of metal ones;
- Cardboard – we noticed that utensil heads would be super unstable without something against it so we put a round shape cardboard in the middle pipe and it would prevent utensil heads being pushed into the pipe;
- Magnets – since the utensil heads are interchangeable, we’ve thought of many ways to let the shifting process be as easy as it could, and then we realized that magnets could be a really good way of connecting things and taking apart them;
- Metal strips – since our utensil heads are plastic, we had to add metal strips on it to make it be able to attach magnets; we also thought of food safety, so we attached the metal strips at the very end of the utensil heads to avoid children touching these strips;
- Mod Podge and plastic bags – we’ve already got two layers – PVC pipe and foam, and then, to make the head waterproof, we had to cover it with some waterproof material. Our initial intention was to use silicone (could be got from swimming hat) to cover the handle, however, later on, we decided to use plastic bags and mod podge to cover the handle and it could have the same effects, and one of the advantages was that children could also draw on mod podge to create their own style handles;
- Tape & Glue – sure, these were for gluing stuff
Here is the link to our slide which includes a demo video of demonstration.
From the perspective of the projects, I think my collaborators and me are satisfied with what we have made because it could really help and solve problems instead of ones that just show off technology without concept and rationale behind. To be honest, I learned many things during the process of making this project, including but not limited to, hearing feedbacks and making improvements and various iterations, exploring many possibilities of different material and telling what is the difference and which could best serve our purpose. And in terms of collaboration, it was really good time discussing with my groupmates and seeing different possible outcomes and shifting our ideas based on situations.