The mission of the Program for Assistive Technologies for Underprivileged (PATU) is to allow students to practice engineering skills while they develop strong communication and teamwork skills, gain global perspective, and learn social responsibility through projects for persons with disabilities that otherwise could not afford assistance.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Planting a seed

This morning Eduardo, a graduate student in engineering at UESC, showed us around the materials labs.  It was interesting for the students to hear of the different materials used in polymers and other compounds here.  It was also very cool to see one of their new projects--a distillery!  They are trying to make beer with locally-grown ingredients instead of having to import barley from other areas around the world. 

We then went to the civil engineering lab where the students learned of the different materials (foam and piacava) that are being incorporated into the concrete to both increase the strength and reduce the weight.  They are also working on an interesting method of fitting concrete blocks together, where recycled bottles are used and the pieces fit together like Legos.  

Next came the part where, hopefully, we planted a seed.  The students presented their projects to UESC Intro to Engineering students.  The Sweet Briar and St. Ambrose students did a great job presenting their projects, and a big thank-you to Alana for being our interpreter today!  Students from UESC asked many thoughtful questions about considerations for mass production and testing of the devices.  They were also very interested in learning more about our programs.  In our answers we tried to emphasize how the devices being presented are not necessarily "the end."  Many need additional iterations or could benefit more people if they were taken to the "next level" (rigorously tested, a system designed for mass production, marketing and entrepreneurship, etc).  That would be a yet another great way to involve UESC students in this overall project.  We have really enjoyed the integration of UESC engineering students into our trip this time and hope that it is just the first step to a truly great integration and collaboration.  Thanks for all of your hard work on this Fabricio, Julianno, and Jose Carlos (sorry if I am not spelling your names correctly!!).

After another quick lunch at the Itabuna mall (and massive purchasing of Brazil soccer jerseys and t-shirts), we headed to a different clinic in Itabuna called CAPSia (Alana, you will need to re-remind me what that stands for!).  We were given a warm welcome by Maggie, the clinic coordinator, the staff, and the children and their parents, and everyone took a seat eager to hear about the students' projects.

Kate started the presentations by detailing the seat positioner she designed with Kelsey and Epiphany (all students at Sweet Briar).  The device is designed to prevent children between the ages of 5 months and 2 years from sitting in the 'W' position, where there hips and knees are abducted in a way that is not good for normal joint development.  The device is a chair that sits on the floor so the child can still play easily, but has longer sides so that the legs cannot be bent around and must stay out in front.  It is adjustable for three different sizes, has a tray, and is made out of a very fun fabric that is covered in plastic for easy washing.  Unfortunately, Kate will probably have to present her device again on Thursday, because it should actually go to CREADH.  Great job, though, Kate!

Kate also then presented the vest that was designed for Max by Hannah, Mandi, and Jessica (from Sweet Briar).  No one from the group was able to make the trip, so Kate took responsibility for explaining the device.  It is a fisherman's vest with blood pressure cuffs sewn in the sleeves so that Max can apply pressure to his arms himself to provide himself with therapy.  Max has autism, and when he sometimes becomes out of control, applying a bear hug to Max will really calm him down.  It is the hope that Max will learn to use the vest to calm himself down.  They also provided different games attached to the vest that Max can fidget with.  He was there and tried it on.  He and several of the students were dancing!  Hard to tell for sure, but I think he liked it!

Finally, Kiera presented the vestibular therapy devices designed by her group (Luke and Neil from St. Ambrose and Kiera, Emily, and Rosalie from Sweet Briar).  The group designed and built two separate devices.  The first device is a simple swiveling seat.  The second is a wobble board that was integrated into a game.  The idea is that the patient is to view different shapes on a device in front of them that is spinning (slowly), and they are to lean on the wobble board in the direction of the corresponding shape (which is velcroed to the board).  This will then help to train their senses to better integrate different inputs (visual and vestibular or proprioceptive, for example). 

Thank you to everyone for your hard work today!  I think the children enjoyed interacting with the students!

1 comment:

  1. Jodi, CAPs means Psychosocial Care Center (Centro de Atenção Psicossocial in portuguese).