Makeathon to build technology for persons with disabilities

Americas, Assistive Technology, March 20 2017

Nearly 100 innovators, makers, students and people with disabilities will gather at the UC Berkeley Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation for a three-day technology-building marathon to create devices that help people with disabilities overcome everyday challenges.

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Team Grabber shows off their prototype at the recent TOM: Bay Area Makeathon Photo: UC Berkeley

At the event, called TOM:Berkeley, which starts on March 17, teams will work in state-of-the-art workshops at both Jacobs Hall and the CITRIS Invention Lab at Berkeley. They will use equipment such as 3D printers, laser cutters, water jet cutters and electronics fabricators to build physical prototypes of their technologies. The teams will have 48 hours to create a working prototype. The closing event, which is open to the public, will take place at Jacobs Institute for Design Innovation on March 19th at 4 p.m., when TOM:Berkeley participants will showcase their prototypes.

“As a mechanical engineering student and quadriplegic due to spinal cord injury, I am very excited to bring a TOM Community to UC Berkeley and engage my peers in an impactful way,” said Drew McPherson, a TOM:Berkeley organizer and UC Berkeley student. “I see so much skill and potential amongst my fellow students and see so many activities that my friends and I in the disability community struggle with or simply cannot do because no functional or affordable solution exists. By bringing these communities together, many of these challenges can be addressed with local community members. Through TOM the impact can be amplified to reach communities around the world.”

TOM:Berkeley is the newest event from the Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) community, which is a global movement of makers, designers, developers and innovators who try to solve challenges faced by people living with disabilities worldwide. The TOM:Berkeley community will be launched in conjunction with similar events at three other college campuses, all with the support of the Jim Joseph Foundation.

More than a billion people live with disabilities worldwide and face challenges that hinder independence and inclusion. Technologies could be developed to overcome these challenges, but that development faces challenges of its own, such as small market size, which limits commercialization and drives up prices for existing commercial products.

“TOM:Berkeley introduces new ways to create affordable technologies by connecting people in need with local volunteers with different backgrounds and skill sets, and then providing the support and structure to facilitate development,” said Rebecca Fuhrman, TOM’s Architect of Inspiration.

Added, Gidi Grinstein, president of the Reut Group, which organizes the TOM communities: “TOM:Berkeley is mobilizing local talent and resources in Berkeley to help local people who face neglected challenges that have no market solution and no government solution,” said “By creating specific and extremely affordable solutions to a specific problem, and then making it globally available, every team can help tens of thousands of other users worldwide, supporting a global network of communities collectively working together to improve the lives of millions of people living with disabilities.”

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