High school students gear up for annual MAKERS of Change Assistive Technology Challenge

Southwest Human Development and ASU EPICS High have joined forces to host the 2021 MAKERS of Change Assistive Technology Challenge to benefit young children with disabilities.

Since 2018, Southwest Human Development has been hosting its MAKERS of Change challenge to engage Valley high school science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), coding, robotics and technology teams to troubleshoot and create “real-world” solutions using Internet of Things, or IoT, technology that will help improve the lives of young children with disabilities.

More than 300 students from high schools across the Valley will collaborate at this year’s event to develop solutions in support of children with disabilities.

“Today’s youth have such extraordinary imaginations and curiosities for making and creating,” said Jake Adams, chief development officer at Southwest Human Development. “We have continued to grow this challenge to harness this maker’s spirit in support of real outcomes that actually make a difference in the lives of those we serve throughout our Easterseals disabilities programs.”

While ASU has supported the event in a variety of ways through the years, 2021 is the first collaboration between Southwest Human Development and ASU EPICS High, facilitated by the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“This collaboration gives a structured ‘human-centered challenge’ to participating students. Engagement with a challenge that has at its center young children with disabilities and their family members will give participants the opportunity to develop engineering habits of mind,” says Tirupalavanam Ganesh, Tooker Professor and assistant dean of engineering education at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. “The opportunity to design solutions with empathy will help participants find a connection between people and a product that has the potential to improve the quality of life for young children with disabilities. We anticipate that engaging in this experience will help students expand their understanding of what they can do with engineering—to not only make a difference in society, but also make choices about their future possible selves to become active participants in the innovation enterprise.”

The MAKERS of Change Assistive Technology Challenge was created to support the ADAPT Shop at Southwest Human Development, a place where every project begins with an idea based on a need and ends with a life improved. Thanks to a dedicated and experienced team of therapists and fabricators, children from birth to age 5 with physical disabilities are able to receive the supports they need to become independent, active participants in regular activities enjoyed by other children their age.

Each high school team of up to six team members, plus their coach, will be presented with a real-life challenge faced by children with disabilities. Teams will be matched with a professional mentor who will assist and guide them through project ideation and execution over a four-week period during which they develop and build a solution for the scenario.

Final team presentations will take place on Oct. 30, with teams being evaluated on a variety of qualitative measures by a judging panel consisting of representatives from Amazon, Intel, Sunflower Bank, Nextiva and CopperPoint Insurance Companies. The winning high school team will win a $500 cash prize.

To learn more about the MAKERS of Change Assistive Technology Challenge, visit swhd.org/makers.