Students in teacher Craig Coon’s Principles of Engineering class at Brockport High School are taking their technology studies in an unexpected direction. They have challenged themselves to invent new ways for peers in the school’s 6:1:1 Medically Fragile class to participate more fully in a variety of physical activities. For these students, physical limitations may hinder their ability to throw a ball, do science experiments or express themselves artistically. They may sometimes find themselves sitting on the sidelines, unable to take a more active role in special activities, gym class or some academic classes – limited not by their desire to join in, but by their power to move.
Coon, in collaboration with Monroe 2-Orleans BOCES teacher Susan DeJohn and Assistive Technology Consultant Lindsey Brugger, decided to turn to his technology students for solutions. They began by encouraging the students in both classes to connect and communicate, getting to know each other and sharing their thoughts and challenges.
“We asked the technology students to think about how our kids could participate in modified ways; how technology could be used to give them more access,” said Brugger. The engineering students had been studying switches, so they began the brainstorming there. Ideas were proposed: building a switch-activated catapult that could be used to collect data for a science or physics experiment or perhaps hit a golf ball; using a switch to power the movement of an artist’s brush.
Prototypes were designed, built and then brought to DeJohn’s class for user testing. The joy of collaborating with peers was evident on every face, as buttons were pressed, and catapults were triggered. The next step will be reworking and refining the mechanisms, based on user feedback.