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Imagination Is the First Step: Taking Advantage of Our Makerspace to Help!

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Participate and share : Poster

Camila Rodriguez  
Paola Rodriguez  
Daniella Barake  
Daniela Romero  
Maria Lopez  

Do you have dreams? Do you depend on someone else to achieve them? Visually impaired people fight every day to become independent. We used our imagination and our makerspace to design a smart cane and a talking app to help them become more independent.

Audience: Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Topic: Equity & inclusion
Grade level: PK-5
Subject area: Special education, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Students:
Innovative Designer
  • Students know and use a deliberate design process for generating ideas, testing theories, creating innovative artifacts or solving authentic problems.
  • Students develop, test and refine prototypes as part of a cyclical design process.
Additional detail: Student presentation

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Our students were learning many skills in our regular classes, but we needed them to learn far beyond. Students needed to learn to be creative in solving real life problems. That’s when it all started, we needed to transform our school and our way of teaching. We wanted too educate tomorrow’s leaders by giving them the tools to help different communities in our country. That´s when it al started, we created our first makerspace a new space, a new learning environment to imagine, design, prototype, invent and solve. It offers hands-on approach to learning by allowing students to experiment and invent as they dive deeper into STEAM.

So as part of an activity for this new makerspace we created a contest for kids to propose and build engineering and technology proposals which they developed through the use of a software and a prototype. The main objective of the project was: to develop an invention that solves a need of a person or a group of people with a disability using technology.

How did we develop the contest?
1. First the group of students needed to sign up to participate.
2. Students where introduced to different disabilities and gave them the right tools to investigate about them.
3. Then the students created a creative video where they show the disability they have identified and how they intend to help them.
4. The best videos where selected and invited to the space to elaborate their prototype.
5. Finally the best prototype was selected within the students and this idea was the one we created at the end.

How was the prototype created?
Students used the design thinking process which helped them structure the steps and work together as a group. With this project we tested our students in STEAM and computer Science skills. The group of students where guided into different phases to create their prototype. Each phase had a different purpose to guide them.

Phase I: Introduce students to the different disabilities by conferences and videos.
Phase 2: The students were asked to choose a disability and investigate and interview people about this topic.
Phase 3: The students where asked to create a creative video with their disability and solution to help them in their daily lives. They show their video to the class, listened to the ideas of others, giving and receiving feedback to improve the proposed solutions.
Phase 4: Students selected the best idea as a class to develop only one proposal.
Phase 5: Students started the design thinking process to develop the winning prototype. They investigated, created sympathy maps, build, test and rebuild their designs as many times as needed. For the creation of the cane they learned how to program Arduino uno, to weld and to assemble all the cables.
For the creation of the app they first learned how to use Scratch and then with this base they later learned to create each section in the MIT Inventor App.
You can view this phase in the video name: Design thinking Tecnoeye
Phase 6: As part of the cyclical design process, it was important to create an alliance with a center in San Salvador so that they could provide the students the necessary feedback and elements to succeed with the project and perfect the protype.
You can view this phase in the video name: Users Tecnoeye
Phase 7: Finally the prototype was done. The group of students show the final prototype to the assosiation. We will continue to made the nessesary adjusments to improve.

Which materials did we use to create it?
For creating the smart stick/cane, we used: a cane, Arduino, batteries, sonar sensors and jumper wires. Additional of the stick we have a Smartphone with the app created. The simplicity of materials can help anyone create the same prototype; replication is not a problem.

What skills are the students learning?
After creating this project each student will be able to:
Apply the design thinking process
Exposure to creativity.
Increase in critical thinking.
Provide unique ways to solve problems.
Problem awareness
Become active global citizens
Work together as a team to solve problems

What makes our prototype different?
We are aware that this solution has been created before in many countries. This solution has not been created to help people in El Salvador. Even though it was the first time in our country we wanted to make it different. That´s why our different factor is that our voice control app helps them move around in indoor space and the stick to move around everywhere they want.

How are we helping our country?
El Salvador is a small county located in central America, 36% of the population live in poverty. From this 36%, 2.4% have visual challenges. That means that for every 2.4% of a visually impaired person one more member of their family stay at. This increases the number of the nonworking class and the cycle continues.

We all deserve to have the same opportunities in our life. Unfortunately, there are many factors or elements that prevent us from developing like others do. Blindness in our country has never become an important matter to address. And the NGOs that come to aid El Salvador are more centered on medical matters. The visually impaired are not hopeless and the students wanted them to know that they are not forgotten. We can’t give them back their eyesight but with this invention with the use of technology they can be rescued and can be sheltered. The students develop a solution to help them break the cycle and move around without a caregiver giving the members of the family a chance to work and bettering the family’s overall wellbeing.

The students wanted to help the visually impaired people of El Salvador. The students created a prototype of a smart stick/cane and an app that help them move around in an indoor space. This will help them move around without anyone’s help and alerting them when there is a risk of a fall or upcoming object that might harm them. This will provide them with more convenient means of life. With this project each student understood that they can build anything they want, they just need to find a purpose that moves them.

Supporting research

Here are some links that supports our project and the students learning process:

1. Desing thinking process:

2. Alliances and users that help build prototype:

4. Process and students learning (complete video)

5. Materials needed: Here is a link with all digital materials

Here are some websites that helped us with our investigation:

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Camila Rodriguez, Highlands International School
Paola Rodriguez, Highlands International School
Daniella Barake, Highlands International School
Daniela Romero, Highlands International School
Maria Lopez, Highlands International School

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