Assistive Technology: Teenage Inventors Solve Everyday Problems for People With Cerebral Palsy | Galicia | Spain

Beatriz Mendez Marek lost her hair the day she visited her institute and saw how her students listened to the daily problems people with cerebral palsy face. Those restless teenagers usually gave „killer stares” and seemed to hypnotize them to shut up and focus, recalls the technical teacher of the IES Reco de Trape in Cullerido (A Coruña). Users of Relatives Association of Individuals…

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Beatriz Mendez Marek lost her hair the day she visited her institute and saw how her students listened to the daily problems people with cerebral palsy face. Those restless teenagers usually gave „killer stares” and seemed to hypnotize them to shut up and focus, recalls the technical teacher of the IES Reco de Trape in Cullerido (A Coruña). Users of the Association of Relatives of People with Cerebral Palsy of A Coruña (Aspace) said they were never able to blow out the candles on their birthday cake. They were told about the odyssey they were supposed to visit in one of the municipal parking lots reserved for the disabled. Or his impossible attempts to create a power button on a computer that responds to his mobility limitations. This talk is the starting point for each lesson of a unique project called Inclusive Talents of the CITIC Research Center of the University of A Coruña. People with this disorder present challenges to ESO and undergraduate students so that they can think and find something that will help them overcome obstacles in their daily lives.

Users of Ospace Day Center and Residence can now celebrate each year by blowing out candles. Children from IES Rego de Trabe built a mechanical blower from recycled materials. They used everything from broken computer fans to a 3D printer. In this process, under the supervision of CITIC researchers, they met people suffering from these disorders and heard their doubts. For example, if they want one or two buttons, or if the device needs to be height adjustable, it will be suitable for different types of cakes. Finally, the mechanism of an old beach umbrella comes in handy no matter what size of cake the candles are stuck into.

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Technical students at this Culleredo center have also designed a geolocation system so that people with cerebral palsy know where their designated parking spaces are in the municipalities of A Coruña, Sada, Oleiros and Cambre. In addition to programming tasks, they faced a non-technical but still complex challenge: the survival of a bureaucratic platform that collects data on the location of places before each city council. Improvements are now proposed, including information on whether the app is free of charge. People who couldn’t speak even invented an intercom to make basic requests like „I want water.” Or a poncho made of smart textiles that allows children to learn different parts of the body: when they touch one, the conductive fabrics work like a switch and release a pre-recorded message.

The first poncho the boys designed was useless; They had to change it because it was impossible to use it sitting in a wheelchair. „The program forces them to put themselves in each other’s shoes. They first develop empathy, then apply knowledge,” explains Professor Mendez Marek. The author also highlights that it teaches adolescents skills that include „technology is good for doing good things” and gives them great commitment: ” Because people they know and people they’ve heard of will use it, they know they need to do it better. There is a very interesting personal need and that connection is very exciting.

Maria Jose, an Aspace user, is „very happy” because she now has a special button that allows her to turn the computer on and off. Lucia also enjoys the liquor the students designed for her. It is a helmet with a rod that allows you to throw balls in your favorite sport: bocce, a Paralympic sport like petanque. At the beginning of the course, those who worked at Asspace „brainstormed ideas about the needs that arise in their daily lives,” says Iria Robles, coordinator of the A Coruña association. In work groups between children from institutions and people with cerebral palsy, „an amazing bond is established, they treat each other like friends.” „We’ve achieved the awareness we wanted,” Robles celebrates.

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From the minds of these teenage inventors came thirty technological solutions that improve the everyday lives of people with mobility issues. They have developed an adapted bingo or push-button dice combination. They have reprogrammed classic video games like Mario Bros. or Comekokos so that jumps and other screen reactions occur by moving the controller less.

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Siena, a high school student at IES Rego de Trabe (Culleredo), with an application to find parking spaces, in the given image.

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The Information and Communication Technology Research Center (CITIC) has been developing inclusive technology for 15 years, that is, creating universal technology designs that think for all types of people and help people with disabilities improve their daily lives. public life. Inclusive Talents seeks to „encourage youth entrepreneurship and doing things that have a direct impact on society,” explains CITIC’s Deputy Director Javier Pereira. He hopes this will help reduce the „worrying” gender bias that technical jobs suffer from: only 13% of students in A Coruña’s computer engineering faculty are women.

In the case of Xiana and Lucía this had an effect. They were high school students at IES Rego de Trabe and participated in the design of a parking geolocator. The inclusive skills act as an „inspiration” for Chiana, who is now clear that she wants to study computer science. „It allowed me to learn about the reality of people with cerebral palsy and to put myself in their shoes and do something useful for their lives. „It’s really good,” she explains. Lucia, who saw Aspace users tear up with emotion as they explained their discovery, had planned to study physics or chemistry, but Changed her mind and chose a career in technology. „It was a unique, amazing experience,” she says. “I now feel that I can help others through technology.”

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Inclusive Talents is entering its fourth edition these days. The deadline for registration of centers is open. Starting with eight companies, 12 participated last year and a total of 200 students and 27 Aspace users participated. Technology teacher Méndez Mareque believes the program’s success among children is behind the increase in enrollment his course has experienced: „My students have already asked me when they started this course.”

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