A team of high school students involved with Gorge Makerspace’s Project Invent have begun working on a device that would allow a fellow student with cerebral palsy to play online games.
Project Invent is a company that is flipping the traditional education system on its ear by challenging students to solve real-world problems in their community through STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) rather than placing its priorities on test scores.
Project Invent hosts a curriculum-based competition, inviting 10 teams from around the country to invent and pitch a device that would solve a problem for someone in their community and has the potential to solve a problem for others around the world.
“Project Invent guides students through the process of empathizing with users, brainstorming creative ideas, building meaningful solutions, and pitching for funding,” according to the Project Invent website.
The competition also gives teams a real-world glance at what it is like to pitch a product, invention or idea in a business setting.
Project Invent distributes the rules and curriculum of the competition to the selected teams, which are usually made up of Makerspaces or Makerspace-like programs. The curriculum outlines each phase of the inventing process, including the selection of a potential user of the invention.
“What I really like about this project is that it asks the teams to walk a mile in another person’s shoes to find out what life is like for them day to day before going off and making something. You have to get to know the person to find out what they want, what would improve their lives and why,” said Gorge Makerspace Director Jack Perrin.
The user of the Gorge Makerspace team’s invention will be Columbia High School freshman Jose Garcia.
While spending time with Garcia, the team learned that he is particularly fond of all kinds of games, from card games like Uno to video games like Minecraft. Having cerebral palsy (CP), however, makes playing these games very difficult.
“Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. CP is the most common motor disability in childhood. Cerebral means having to do with the brain. Palsy means weakness or problems with using the muscles. CP is caused by abnormal brain development or damage to the developing brain that affects a person’s ability to control his or her muscles,” according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
After doing some research to see what is out there to help folks like Garcia with CP, the team decided to dream big and came up with the idea of making a joystick so that people with CP can enjoy games as well.
“The team is now in the model building or prototyping phase of the project, starting to design what it might look like and how it will function,” said Perrin.
Once the project is complete, team members will travel to Stanford University in California in May to demonstrate their invention and hopefully get it funded.
In the meantime, Perrin encourages more high school students to join the team.
“We are the smallest program competing in this competition; a lot of these other teams are based in Silicon Valley. It would be great to show what a little town in the Northwest can do,” said Perrin.
Interested students can contact Perrin at firstname.lastname@example.org.