Printlab announced a a new assistive technology design challenge.
For this year’s challenge, Printlab is again partnering with 3D software giant Autodesk. The previous iteration in 2020 saw an incredible 17,000 entrants from no less than 72 countries across the globe.
While the previous design challenge focused on developing hand mobility devices, this year the scope of entries is now expanded to any assistive device to overcome any disability, and also for assisting the elderly.
The event is called “make:able”, a play on the combination of design and assistive technologies.
The project provides entrants with a detailed toolkit from which anyone can learn what to do. Specifically, they provide a teacher’s guide with lesson plans, which should allow for individual or groups of students to participate with their own unique designs.
Many of the projects will almost certainly make extensive use of 3D printing to produce parts or entire mechanisms for their challenge entries.
Printlab explains the goals for entrants of the challenge:
- Learn about disabilities, assistive technology and 3D printing from industry experts
- Gain creative inspiration from stories and example solutions
- Build technical 3D design skills in free Autodesk software
- Find a meaningful challenge in their local community or online
- Develop empathy for their end user using human-centred activities
- Identify opportunities and generate ideas with design-thinking methods
- Make, test and refine a 3D printed product through an iterative process
- Tell their story in a 2-4 minute video submission
There are two categories of entrants: students under the age of 18, and another category for those over the age of 18. This enables university students and young hobbyists to participate.
The more participants the better, as that greatly increases the odds of developing ingenious and practical devices for assisting others.
Printlab Co-founder Jason Yeung explained:
“The quality of last year’s submissions is evidence that young people have the empathy, creativity and technical skills to expand outside of the classroom and solve real-world challenges. This year, with the support of new resources and collaborations, we’re focusing on scale. Our aim is to scale up the number of participants, the number of open-source solutions created, and the number of end users impacted. We are extremely excited to once again facilitate and showcase the power of 3D printing for customised assistive technology.”
Educators may register to receive the teacher’s package, while others can request the material for the over-18 category.
There are prizes for this event, but they are not yet specified. The challenge folks explain:
“Prizes are under consideration but will include 3D printers and other technology products for the winning teams.”
The deadline for entries to the challenge may seem way off in the distant future of May 1, 2022, but in the world of design, that’s pretty soon. The best designs will undergo an iterative process where designs are repeatedly tested and adjusted. It’s not uncommon to see ten or more iterations to get a design correct, and that can take considerable time.
I support this challenge because it has the potential to introduce modern digital manufacturing technologies to a vast number of students around the world. The now inexpensive ability to make use of 3D printing means that we may see very significant developments in the future, as these students take their new knowledge into new projects.