Texas Students Create Assistive Technology for Classmates With Disabilities

Jan 6, 2022 12:05 PM ET
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Rosemary Parker, Active Learning teacher, explains how the 3D printed keyguard is useful to Jayden Hernandez in the classroom.

In 2019, a Texas middle school student with a limb difference had dreams of playing the cello in the orchestra. She shared her wishes with teachers at Austin Middle School, and without having a tangible solution, they promised they’d find a way.

After exploring various options, the teachers eventually found their answer: Nimitz High School students could create a prosthetic arm using 3D printers. The high school had recently secured a 3D printer, and while the technology was new for all involved, teachers decided to make the endeavor a learning moment by including students in the design process.

That singular act inspired Irving Independent School District (ISD) to think bigger. Since then, students at Austin Middle School have designed and 3D printed various assistive devices for students with disabilities, all of which were created using its Verizon Innovative Learning Lab.

One such piece of adaptive technology was an iPad keyguard for eighth grade student Jayden Hernandez. Rosemary Parker, the Active Learning teacher who has worked with Hernandez for three years, explains, “[The keyguard] has been helpful to Jayden in the classroom by providing him with a target area so that physically he's able to see more clearly where he needs to push to make a choice.”

Parker adds, “The fact that something like this can be printed is amazing to me, and it helps kids become more empathetic when they do things for other people, and particularly when they do something for someone with a disability.”

James Tiggeman, Digital Learning Coordinator at Irving ISD, agrees: “We really try to focus on the design thinking and the empathy that we engage with when we're designing a product for someone else.”

Verizon Innovative Learning, part of Citizen Verizon, the company’s responsible business plan for economic, environmental and social advancement, aims to move the world forward for all. Utilizing lab resources, Austin Middle School has begun to address the countless ways in which technology can create a more accessible, digitally inclusive world, beginning one student at a time.

"The fact that something like this can be printed is amazing to me, and it helps kids become more empathetic when they do things for other people, and particularly when they do something for someone with a disability."

Rosemary Parker, Active Learning