Custom Design for Greater Independence

In the world of Rehab Engineering there is a balance of innovation and not reinventing the wheel.  When possible I implement solutions utilizing existing devices.  But sometimes, there just is not anything on the market that meets the needs of the client.  That is when the real fun begins! Custom design is when I get to put my engineer hat on and tap into my innovation skills.  Sometimes the solution is relatively low tech, and other times it is more complex.  In recent months I have gotten some great design challenges and had the opportunity to collaborate with some brilliant college students to create adapted equipment for recreation and academic supports.

  1. Adapted Guitar picks.

This is one of several adapted guitar picks that were created for middle school students with hand one handed limitations.  These students wanted to play a guitar, but holding and manipulating a standard guitar pick was not feasible.  I called upon the 3D design skills of a UNO Biomechanics student, and together we designed and printed several guitar picks – some that wrapped around a thumb & some with a ball shaped handle.  One student needed something more custom.  The result was attaching one of the 3D printed picks to a dowel that was set at a custom angle based on what worked best for the student.  And now there are 4 students who have musical equipment that matches their abilities!  I can’t wait for the Spring concert!


 2. Adapted musical instrument stand

One music loving girl needed an accessible way to play the triangle and go-go bells from her wheelchair.  Her arm strength and range of motion are limited, so the instruments need to be very close and in a specific position for her to access them.  This is one of those low tech solutions!  I created a pole out of PVC and used basic hardware to create mounting areas for the instruments.   We used a microphone stand to hold a the pole. The pole position can easily be adjusted and now she has access to both instruments allowing her to choose which she wants to play at what time.


3. Custom designed ergonomic T-stool

A t-stool is a seating device commonly used in therapies to work on balance and strength.  It is essentially a flat round seat attached to a pole.  Every model on the market only extends to a standard seated height of 19 inches.  This was creating some problems for music therapy students who were well over 6 feet tall!  The school requested a t-stool that extended to at least 22 inches.  We also decided that due to postural and strength challenges it would be beneficial to have a more ergonomic seat.  Part of my industry-academic partnership with Metro Community College is bringing their prototype design students into projects.  This was a perfect fit!  With some general design guidance from me, they created an ergonomic t-stool that extends to 24 inches.  It is comfortable, functional, stable and like nothing on the market!


4. Adapted Canoe Paddle

For someone who has one hand or arm that lacks some strength or mobility, independently paddling a canoe could be an insurmountable challenge.  We adapted a basic canoe paddle to have a more accessible and ergonomic handle that will accommodate the grip abilities of a range of students at a school here in Omaha, NE.  When it is camp time this Spring, everyone will have the opportunity to independently paddle their canoe!


5. Adapted archery system

Sometimes it is worth saving the best for last!  Archery is a favorite camp activity for many students that attend the Eastern NE 4H camp each Spring. But students with one handed limitations were not able to get the full experience because they could not participate without assistance.  They had to choose between holding the bow or drawing the arrow.  They wanted to do it by themselves!  It took considering several design concepts and a few visits to the Eastern NE 4H Camp, but the result is pretty dang awesome.

The rail will be mounted to a vertical post at the archery shelter (don’t worry – it is more than stable!).  The bow is mounted to plates that slide on the rail.  This makes it height adjustable so campers of various heights or in a seated position can have access to the system.  This system holds the bow stationary, allowing one handed access to drawing the arrow and independently participating in the archery fun!

The support of the Eastern NE 4H Camp has been amazing in this project.  They have accommodated my multiple site visits and allowed me to borrow the bow until the Spring.  And, they are excited to have the system permanently mounted at the camp for ALL campers.  To our knowledge, this will be the only outdoor camp in our area with an adapted archery station. 


We love being creative!  If you would like one of these solutions or have another custom project need to give someone in your life greater independence in the activities they love please contact us to learn more!

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