Thursday, June 18, 2015

Do-It-Yourself Assistive Technology in the 21st Century: 3D Printers and AT

very exciting tool for do-it-yourself assistive technology is a 3D printer. 3D printing is a process of building three dimensional objects from drawings such as blueprints or CAD (computer aided drafting) files or from a three dimensional scan of an object. When printing, a 3D printer creates layers of plastics, paper, or metals that are placed on top of each other and fused or fastened together by the printer to create an object. Currently, 3D printing is being used to create a wide range of assistive technology, including wheelchair ramps, adapted spoons, prosthetics, and tactile objects for people who are blind or visually impaired. The printer itself can be expensive, about $1,000 for smaller desktop models to more than $10,000 for larger printers, but once the printer is purchased, objects can be made for just a few cents or dollars. There are also online instructions to build 3D printers (though we have not tried any of these out). With ingenuity and a bit of training in computer drafting, the sky is the limit for those creating assistive technology with 3D printers. More About AT and 3D Printers:

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Did you Know? Free Online Courses

The Internet was designed to share knowledge and information across the world. With a simple web search, you can find out what year we landed on the moon, look up the meaning of exigency, or even find out what happened last week on your favorite TV show.

But did you know that you can learn about more complicated things online like computer science, calculus, physics, and more? There are several places online where you can take entire courses on topics like these for free! Here are three of our favorites:

Khan Academy started out as an online tool for learning math with tons of videos teaching math concepts from basic addition all the way to trigonometry. But in recent years they added new courses on science, economics, humanities, and even a great introduction to computer programming.

Their math instruction lets you explore math topics using their knowledge map, a visual guide that show you how each math concept is interconnected. If you are having trouble with a concept you can take a look at the map and see what perquisite concepts you should master first, allowing you to take a step back if needed.

Schools have started integrating material from Khan Academy into their curriculum but anyone can access all of their content for free!

iTunes U is a free portal that Apple provides to K–12 schools, colleges, and universities where they can post materials and lectures for their students and the great thing is anyone can access them. In order to access iTunes U you must either load the free iTunes U app on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch or load iTunes on your Mac or PC.

On iTunes you will find entire courses that can include video lectures, slides, PDFs, documents, and more. Want to learn how to make program your own App? Stanford University has their entire iPad and iPhone Development course for free including their introduction to programming course Programming Methodology. Check out MIT’s K–12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math video series. And much, much, more.

Coursera offers open online courses from over 80 universities and educational organizations. Classes include topics such as math, business, computer science, biology, and more. Signing up for a class gives you access to lecture videos and quizzes to check your knowledge. Some classes also allow you to submit homework and in some cases will award you a certificate of completion but it may require a fee.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

DIY Sensory Ideas for Ages Birth to 3

Even the youngest children can benefit from using assistive technology.  Try these ideas for sensory AT with your little ones.

Use a baby bottle to make a fun rattle or noise maker for extra sensory input.  Fill a plastic bottle with beads, coins, bells, or other small objects that will make noise.  Make sure to glue the lid on with hot glue for safety!  Add colorful puff balls, small pieces of pipe cleaners, or a few clippings of shiny paper to add to the visual sensory experiences as well.

Sensory Box
Children learn by exploring.  Use hot glue to attach items with different textures to the lid of a cardboard box.  Have fun exploring with your child!

Crinkle Squares
This is a great sensory fidget toy for children who need extra auditory or tactile stimulation.  It's also great for children who are leaning through tactile exploration of their environment.  To make the crinkle square, sew a crinkly material such as clear wrapping paper inside two squares of fabric.  Add bits of ribbon along the outside edge as you sew for extra tactile stimulation.