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Assistive devices explored in South Surrey classrooms

Grade 7s at Southridge design, builds tools to help disabled family members

Junior students at Southridge School joined a new class this year. They became makers of change.

Through an initiative of Makers Making Change – described as an inclusive online community with a mission to “connect people with disabilities to volunteer makers who can build affordable assistive technologies” – students in Grades 3, 4 and 7 at the South Surrey school learned about devices that assist people with disabilities in their daily lives.

Grade 7 students were given a unique opportunity to apply the knowledge, by making assistive switches to help children with disabilities control their adapted toys. The devices – raindrop switches – will be connected to adapted toys and donated to BC Children’s Hospital, Sunny Hill Health Centre (located within BCCH) and Sunnyside, teacher Alyshah Jiwa told Peace Arch News.

Makers Making Change is a Neil Squire program. Squire was a 21-year-old basketball star who became a brain-stem tetraplegic – unable to speak or move his arms or legs – in a 1980 crash that unfolded after he hit black ice. According to, a relative of Squire’s “dedicated himself to ‘opening doors’ for people who have significant physical disabilities.”

Jiwa said the Southridge students “were very engaged with the project and wrote Christmas cards to the children… sharing their excitement for the children to be able to access and enjoy a toy.”

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Over the past few months in design class, the Grade 7s also learned about 3D printing, she said.

For the ‘make:able’ challenge – in which participants “design and make a 3D-printed product or prototype that improves the day-to-day life of someone with a disability or the elderly” – the preteens interviewed family members with disabilities, including grandparents who may have, through the effects of aging or illness, lost the ability to do something they used to be able to do, such as holding a screwdriver or cutting veggies independently. Then, they designed and produced 3D-printed tools to respond to the needs.

“Our students printed their first prototypes today (Dec. 7) and will be presenting their final tools to their users in the new year,” Jiwa said.
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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