ADEC’s Technology Challenge may be replicated by Arc chapters across the country after getting national exposure during a conference.

Rod Tackett, ADEC Communications Specialist, and Don Wierenga, ADEC Director of Assistive Technology and Day Services, presented a blueprint for organizing a similar event during a breakout session Sunday, Oct. 4 at The Arc 2015 National Convention in Indianapolis. Their session, “Let them build it and they will come,” drew about 35 participants, a mixture of agency professionals, volunteers, self-advocates and their families.

The interactive session included a discussion about barriers to independence and ways assistive technology may be used to overcome them. Organizing a technology challenge is one way to tap into the entrepreneurial and grassroots resources of a community, said Donna Belusar, ADEC CEO/President.

Don showed the group prototypes of projects created by high school and college students for ADEC’s Assistive Technology Challenge 1.0 back in March.

“What do you think this is for?” he asked, holding up a console with large, colored buttons.

One participant guessed correctly–it was a controller for media devices.

Asked to identify a barrier and draw a solution to it, most groups focused on cooking and making microwave ovens easier to use.

A self-advocate in the group said he’d like to learn how to use a regular stove and would benefit from more accessible oven and burner knobs. “I know how to use a microwave,” he said, “but microwave cooking gets old after awhile.”

Besides inviting high schools and universities to a technology challenge, agencies should also include the research and development departments of local manufacturers and hobbyists who simply like to tinker with gadgets, Don said.

Once people know a problem exists, they like to solve it, he pointed out. “An unexpected benefit of the technology challenge was the way it raised awareness, especially among students.”

Rod explained how the University of Notre Dame added ADEC’s technology challenge to the curriculum for its senior mechanical engineering students. “A lot of classes require a senior project,” he said. “The technology challenge gave them an outlet for that.”

Rod said the first technology challenge was so successful for ADEC, planning for the second is under way. Already more than 50 teams have signed up for the April 16, 2016 event.

Article & Photo by Nancy Miller | Mission Advancement Manager