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May 11, 2014 AT 3:30 am

A DIY Mom Uses The Maker Movement To Help Kids With Special Needs #MotherDay


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Happy Mother’s Day to Divya Kolar, a software engineer who is a major advocate for the Maker Movement and uses it to help teach special needs and physically disabled children. via Divya Kolar at IntelLabs

Meet me, Divya, a software engineer by profession and a tinkerer by hobby. I make all types of creative things using the objects I have accessible. Like a parking garage made of empty paper towel rolls for my son to park his toy cars in or another project close to my heart, making handmade cards and bags to raise funds for a school that’s meant for differently abled kids, such as one boy in particular. For the sake of this blog, we’ll call him Ram.

As part of my passion towards helping these differently abled kids such as Ram, I also create toys that are useful for their cognitive development. With the busy life of an Engineer and also Mom to two young boys, I am not always able to create as many toys as I would like to. So, that got me thinking, could I adapt off the shelf educational toys for Ram? Yes! Ram cannot move as normal kids and so cannot interact with a toy to a level that provides maximum learning. By altering it in a manner that helps overcome his disability, he can engage with the toy and learn from it.

With the help of makers, tinkerers & DIYers, I was able to find ways to adapt any off the shelf toy for Ram. For example, using basic soldering and wiring techniques you can alter how someone interacts with a toy. Think of it like attaching a custom remote designed to overcome a child’s unique disability. Now Ram, who is physically challenged can interact with the toy at the desired level and get the most out of it. This is all thanks to the Maker movement, it’s a matter of looking at toys or any object we find differently. Be it on the shelf at a store or in your online shopping kart, it doesn’t have to be thought of only as a static finished product that is unalterable, thinking about how you can customize it for personal needs opens up a wealth of possible uses.

As I interact with young kids in Ram’s school I also think about their future and worry about the career choices they might make when they grow up. I worry that if a certain thing is not designed to work with their needs then they might not consider it as an option for them or even become intimidated by it. For instance, I can see a potential threat of these students not considering a career in Science or Technology if assistive technology is not fully integrated in a work environment. So, I take it as a personal mission to help enable these kids and inspire others to help enable them.

The Maker movement and advances in 3D printing will hopefully enable Ram in creating affordable, custom gadgets that suits his personal needs.

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