a group of 15 students pose with teachers after a Maker Making Change switch buildathon event in fort st john bc

Since fall, Makers Making Change has sent over 50 demo kits — containing a variety of 3D printed assistive devices — to targeted hospitals, rehab centres, libraries, and programs that work with people with disabilities throughout Canada. In all, over 450 devices have been delivered through the kits.

This is all thanks to our many makers and chapters who have built devices for the kits. One such chapter is our most northern chapter in Fort St John, BC.

The Fort St John chapter is led by chapter leaders Brian Campbell and Keith MacGillivray, district principals at the Peace River North School District, and it has given their students (and teachers) a great opportunity to gain skills through making while helping their community.

In their first build event in January 2020, teachers and Physics 12 students from North Peace Secondary came together to build three assistive devices: light touch switches, raindrop switches and pen balls.

A 3D Printed Assistive Device Kit, including the Pen Ball, Key Turner, and Round Flexure Switch.
The 3D Printed Assistive Devices Kit, which is one of our demo kits, along with the Adaptive Gaming Kit.

“One of the exciting things that happened at our build event, we had the students come in the morning and do the build event,” Brian explains. “And they stayed. When we did the event with the teachers and community members in the afternoon, they were peer coaches, so seeing that interaction where the students became the teachers was really exciting.”

“When we do events like this, it really creates a greater appreciation, or sense of empathy, of adults, or other peers and classmates in our district, that have diverse abilities and challenges,” says Keith.

Many of the devices built went back into the local community, going to organizations like Community Living BC, and working with the school district’s occupational therapist, many were rolled out throughout the school district — one notable example being a student who uses one such switch to turn a blender on and off as part of their foods program.

The rest, about 25 switches, went to Makers Making Change for the demo kit program.

Since the build, the Fort St John chapter has continued to contribute to their community.

In December, the Fort St. John Hospital Foundation put out a request for ear savers, and North Peace Secondary teacher and Makers Making Change member Jennifer Andrews saw the request.

They took up the challenge, and Natasha Yunker, a grade 12 student, made sure the printers were continually running right up to holiday break, and got her peers involved. In the end, 320 ear savers were given to the hospital.

Grade 12 student Natasha Yunker shows off ear-savers that she has printed.
Grade 12 student Natasha Yunker shows off ear savers that she has printed.

At the school level, Brian and Keith have helped to write a career education curriculum.

This year, Jennifer is piloting a class at North Peace Secondary, outside of the school schedule.

“The kids have weekly assignments, they’ve been shown how to use a 3D printer, so they’re developing their own projects,” she explains. “They’ve been meeting with our life skills teacher, and they’ve been looking at some of the challenges students of the school are facing.”

Right now, they’re working on a device to make it easier for one of their classmates to touch the buttons on the elevator. They’re learning the basics of modeling and have created design plans.

“They’re really excited to be making things for other people,” Jennifer says. “And I’m trying to teach it in a way that you don’t have to get it right the first time, like learning the design process, giving them the space to be able to make changes and make mistakes, and learn from that. Giving them permission to mess up.”

The educators are excited at the skills their students are learning.

“I like the idea of how these skills are going to be used in the future, for some of their careers, like how they can take 3D modeling things and where they can go from there,” says Jennifer.

As part of the pilot class, the Fort St John chapter is looking to host another build before the end of the school year.