Youth Making Change
Makers Making Change is a program of Neil Squire, a non-profit organization that empowers people with disabilities through technology. Funded by the Government of Canada, the Youth Making Change project supports STEM programming for youth under 30 in Canada.
Makers will improve their awareness and understanding of people with disabilities while serving their local community. This project can be integrated into STEM programs or extra-curricular activities including robotics clubs, holiday clubs, hack clubs, and university societies.
Students will create and donate assistive devices for people with disabilities while incorporating the principles of design thinking, using 3D modeling (CAD) software, and 3D printing for social good.
“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 district principal Keith MacGillivray.
At Peace River North School District in Fort St John, BC, students, principals, and teachers have been making big strides in their community. In their first build event, teachers and Physics 12 students from North Peace Secondary came together to build three assistive devices. 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.
Who We Are
According to Statistics Canada, 80% of people living with a disability use an assistive device to increase, their independence, and 27% need at least one more. Cost is often cited as the main barrier. DIY assistive technology — and learning STEM skills and Makers Making Change — can help bridge the gap.
Makers Making Change is committed to creating a network of volunteer makers who support people with disabilities within their communities by creating accessible solutions. We stand by the idea of social inclusion and a productive society that includes people with disabilities and gives them equal opportunity to contribute and participate.
Our online platform features a library of various open-source assistive technology design with build instructions and reviews to support makers and device users.
STEM Education is the Future
Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education is an essential part of education:
- STEM activities foster new ideas and creative exploration. Students are encouraged to be curious and use their critical thinking skills to tackle real-world challenges.
- Hands-on experience with engineering, design, robotics, coding, and manufacturing.
- STEM teaches people how to work with others through collaborative learning. Students are encouraged to empathize with others and share insights they’ve learned.
Around 60 engineering students from Acadia University in Wolfville, NS participated in building LipSyncs, mouth-operated sip & puff joysticks. Of them, over 30 volunteered their time to help others build, including mentoring 25 Wolfville School students from Grades 7 and 8. Acadia University’s engineering department incorporated the LipSync Buildathon into their classes, using the device to teach students about soldering, 3D printing, electrical components, and accessibility.
All the Lipsync built were delivered to rehab hospitals like Stan Cassidy Centre For Rehabilitation and disability organizations across Atlantic Canada.
There are a variety of STEM workshops available for Canadian youth under 30. These are opened to classrooms, robotics club, after-school organizations, and any youth or university groups. STEM Workshop training is paid by the Government of Canada. Workshop supplies are separate but may be covered depending on your region. Reach out to [email protected] to learn more.
Types of Workshops
The shift to electronics has become a trend in many industries, and assistive technology is no different. From simple circuits used to switch adapt a toy, to the more complex workings of a sip and puff device, there is plenty for makers to explore and engage with. Students will get a deep understand of various assistive technologies and how devices work from the inside out.
Circuits, electronics, PCBs, soldering, and technical assembly.
Beginner: Students will get an introduction to assistive switches and how devices can be created with just a few components. The lesson involves building the Raindrop or Light Touch Switch. 1 hour.
Intermediate: Hack into a simple battery-operated toy or build the Interact Switch. Students will use flush cutters and a soldering iron in this workshop and develop the confidence to create their own DIY assistive device. 2 hours.
Advanced: Explore electronics and circuitry more in depth by building the LipSync sip & puff device. This device is comprised of 3D printed parts and a variety of electronic parts (like resistors, PCB boards, breakaway headers, to name a few). 3-4 hours.
Learning computer aided design (CAD) is the first step to designing DIY assistive technology. Typical 3D design work is done in CAD modelling programs such as Autodesk Fusion 360 and Tinkercad. The Design for 3D Printing workshop provides hands-on experience with CAD programs and design techniques to improve efficiency and reduce waste.
Computer aided design (CAD), manufacturing, material science, and 3D prototyping.
Beginner: Get hands on experience with computer aided design (CAD) using Tinkercad. Students will get a fundamental understanding of how 2D shapes can be translated into 3D objects. At the end of this workshop, learners will design a custom topper for the Interact Switch. 2 hours.
Intermediate: Explore the basics of Autodesk Fusion 360, a CAD program used by engineers and designers. Makers will apply what they’ve learned by creating and modifying 3D designs. 1-2 hours.
Advanced: In this more advanced CAD workshop, students will use Autodesk Fusion 360 to create more complex design. They’ll learn advanced CAD techniques used by engineers. 2-3 hours.
3D printing is a quick and easy way to make assistive devices. Makers can select from a variety of materials and colours to suit the users needs. The best part? A single roll of filament can print dozens of devices, which significantly lowers the cost compared to traditionally manufactured assistive tech.
This workshop walks students through the basics of 3D printing, as well as tips and tricks to optimize their prints, so they can independently 3D print devices at school or at home.
Manufacturing, 3D printing, material science, and printer operation and maintenance.
Beginner: Understand the basics of 3D printing in this workshop. Makers will learn how a 3D printer works and the 3D printing workflow from file to object. 1 hour.
Intermediate: Optimize designs for 3D printing using CAD and slicer programs. See how overhangs, hole placement, and walls can effect printing speed and strength. 1-2 hours.
Advanced: Students will build the MMC60 switch and use a neat trick in Prusa Slicer to create their own custom textured toppers. 2-3 hours.
Cost is often cited as the main barrier to assistive technology (AT). By volunteering to build open source devices from AT libraries like the one from Makers Making Change, we help provide low cost and affordable solutions to those who need it. Every device built by students will be donated to individuals with disabilities in Canada.
Electronics, PCBs, soldering, technical assembly, and 3D printing.
Beginner: Discover the world of DIY assistive technology. Assemble a pen ball or wobble switch, or pick up a soldering iron to create a Raindrop or Light Touch Switch. 1 hour.
Intermediate: Build assistive devices for people with motor challenges, like the dice rumbler, switch tester, MMC60 switch, or Interact Switch. All these device involve assembling electronic components and 3D prints. 2 hours.
Advanced: Challenge a student’s maker skills by building the LipSync sip & puff device, complex switches, and adapting toys. Students will use their critical thinking skills and be encouraged to help each other throughout the build. 2-3 hours.
Make:able is an assistive technology design challenge by PrintLab, Autodesk, and partners (including MMC). This international challenge is for youth interested in 3D design and 3D printing. Students learn to empathize with others by designing a device for a person with disability over several months.
The 2020 Make:able challenge saw 17,000 student registrations across 72 countries. https://www.makeablechallenge.com/
3D design, 3D printing, and empathy
The Ready Writer: At Copley High School, students Jasmine and Meghan were challenged to create a writing aid for their end user and classmate, Michelle, who suffers from hypotonia. Their design helps Michelle write comfortably for long periods without experiencing muscle fatigue. bit.ly/3LrV0yS
A Cut Above: The team at Westwood Elementary School designed a clever scissor adaption for a 4 year old kindergartener who has a hand disability. Working closely with the child’s occupational therapist, the students’ design uses the thumb and palm of the hand to operate a scissor. bit.ly/3wpJDTX
Over the course of 3 days in Water Valley, AB, young individuals in Alberta attended D-Camps, a program for kids to enjoy the camping experience in a diabetes-free environment. Part of their experience was learning about electronics by building the Raindrop and Light Touch Switches.