We, as tinkerers and engineers, have a special gift: We can design and make things — a process seen simply as magical to those who lack the skills and know-how we’ve developed over the years.
What many of us don’t realize is that we can, with fairly little effort, have a big impact on the lives of people with disabilities. Typically electronic devices can be made more user friendly, but such fixes are either expensive or not commercially available. And often those with disabilities can’t design and make the equipment themselves. An engineer volunteering his or her time to design and make a solution for another person not only helps that one person but learns valuable lessons in useability.
I’ve compiled a list of resources for engineers who want to lend a helping hand. These nine websites are where you’ll find a community of people who need things, plans for things you can make, and others like yourself who are willing to collaborate with ideas or effort. While many of the sites may seem to focus mainly on video gaming, you’ll find that the modifications transfer well to other areas.
Stop breadboarding and soldering – start making immediately! Adafruit’s Circuit Playground is jam-packed with LEDs, sensors, buttons, alligator clip pads and more. Build projects with Circuit Playground in a few minutes with the drag-and-drop MakeCode programming site, learn computer science using the CS Discoveries class on code.org, jump into CircuitPython to learn Python and hardware together, TinyGO, or even use the Arduino IDE. Circuit Playground Express is the newest and best Circuit Playground board, with support for CircuitPython, MakeCode, and Arduino. It has a powerful processor, 10 NeoPixels, mini speaker, InfraRed receive and transmit, two buttons, a switch, 14 alligator clip pads, and lots of sensors: capacitive touch, IR proximity, temperature, light, motion and sound. A whole wide world of electronics and coding is waiting for you, and it fits in the palm of your hand.
Have an amazing project to share? The Electronics Show and Tell is every Wednesday at 7pm ET! To join, head over to YouTube and check out the show’s live chat – we’ll post the link there.
Join us every Wednesday night at 8pm ET for Ask an Engineer!
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