Adaptive Design Study at Olin College: Joy of Living / Advancing Personalized Learning

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We can create tools for ourselves, and for our loved ones. Everyone has the power and access to solve problems. These are ideas that need reinforcing in our societies. I came to fully believe them during my undergraduate career in Mechanical Engineering at Olin College.

My project is an exploration of adaptive and assistive design. I focus mostly on the development of sustainable, personalized adaptive equipment for people with disabilities in urban areas. The many phases of my exploration are documented on my Adaptive Design Study blog. The documentation covers everything from my visit to the Adaptive Design Association in Summer 2015 through my Olin Self Study in Spring 2016. The Adaptive Design Association (ADA) is a non-profit organization that creates adaptive devices for people who have disabilities with cheap, ubiquitous, sustainable materials. It was ADA that first caught my eye and drove me to explore. Their mission is to provide people with disabilities the adaptive equipment they need in every aspect of their lives, and to instigate the creation of adaptive design centers in as many communities as possible. I was able to learn from their social entrepreneurship; I witnessed first-hand their methods of teaching and spreading their creation techniques. ADA already has satellite locations all over the world, such Guatemala City, Toronto, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Brazil, Boston, Montreal, San Diego, Romania, and Holland. I am heavily considering creating a satellite location myself when I return home to Los Angeles. My mission will be to continue teaching how to use simple tools and materials to solve everyday problems.

My documentation also covers my fortunate experience in volunteering for Perkins School for the Blind in their Assistive Devices Center. I spent a large amount of time learning from occupational therapists how to create adaptive devices from common sustainable materials, such as cardboard. While I was new to the occupational therapy world, I was able to draw on experiences in user oriented, critical, and mechanical design that I had gained at Olin College. The biggest challenge I faced in the adaptive design world was learning how to navigate interactions with those who have or work with those that have disabilities.


Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the Olin College Grand Challenge Scholars Program.