The mission of the Program for Assistive Technologies for Underprivileged (PATU) is to allow students to practice engineering skills while they develop strong communication and teamwork skills, gain global perspective, and learn social responsibility through projects for persons with disabilities that otherwise could not afford assistance. PATU will provide undergraduate engineering students with a unique learning experience by providing sustainable, affordable, and functional assistive technologies to persons with disabilities and underprivileged individuals through effective design and implementation strategies. These projects will provide students practice in the engineering design process and communication techniques by incorporating meaningful projects into design courses.

Friday, November 22, 2013

We are trying our hardest to provide our dear patient, Mr. Milton, with simple upper limb prosthetics to improve his daily living by this May.  Check out the story here:  http://sbc.edu/news/engineering-science/mr-miltons-arms/
Check out the video I created after our recent trip.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Let us not say "goodbye" but only "see you next time"

I am writing this final post with both sadness and excitement.  I am excited to be heading home to see my husband and daughters, but sad to be leaving my Bahian friends.  But I am also excited about the future of this work and the relationships we are developing.  The sky is the limit when you are working with people who are passionate and determined.

During our final day we were given a tour of Barry Callebaut, a large industrial cacau factory.  Kaio, a UESC engineering student who is interning at the company, did a great job showing us around and explaining the processes.  There were great questions and interactions, too, as students were interested in the industrial engineering work that he does here with control charts, production charts, SAP, and OEE.  We had to dress like Umpa Lumpas so as not to contaminate anything.  It was very interesting to see how similar factories are comparing to the US, but this one was unbearably HOT!

We then gorged ourselves with lunch at Los Pampas.  Brazilian BBQ is truly amazing.  The amount of meat we ate cannot even be described.  It was delicious and fun, although many may have regretted it later.  Patty, our previous coordinator, joined us for lunch.  It was so wonderful to see her again.  Love you, Patty!!!

Our final visit was to CEPLAC, a federally-funded research facility/sanctuary.  There are several hundred acres of land where they grow forest with several different fruit trees and cacau.  They do research with growing, raising, and processing cacau.  They also have a sanctuary for sloths that have been displaced by deforestation.  I think this may have been one of the students most favorite things of the entire trip!  There was one sloth that was very friendly and interesting in the students.  They are very interesting animals!

They also raise bees at CEPLAC and produce honey.  They have a special breed of bees that do not have stingers, which is neat for those of us who are allergic!  They also raise African Killer Bees.  When asked why they raise them if they are so dangerous, he said it was because they produce so much more honey than the other types, and it is sweeter. 

I want to say THANK-YOU to everyone who made this trip happen.  It has been amazing.  Thank you to all of the students that have been with us on our trips to help out and learn (Alana, Fany, Kaio, Pri...sorry if I miss anyone!).  Thank you to our wonderful hosts for giving our students a great experience (Marcello, Luciana, Junior, Felipe, Annapaula, Nara).  Thank you to the UESC faculty who helped to organize our schedule (Jose Carlos, Julianno, Fabricio, Patty).  A very special thanks to Marcelo for being a great tour guide, interpreter, and host. 

And, finally, there are no words strong enough to express my gratitude to our coordinator, Fabricio.  Thank you so much for everything you've done.  I look forward to our future collaboration and friendship!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Our work in action

Today Chris taught Emanuelle and her parents how to use the communication device they developed.  I think she actually picked up on it quite quickly!  Emanuelle (they call her Manu) has a really wonderful, sweet, and supportive family.  Manu's father enjoyed sharing pictures with me of Manu's recent Quinciniera (15th birthday bash--it's like the "sweet sixteen" in America).  She looked beautiful in her flowing pink gown.  Her little sister (one year old) had a matching dress.  She was absolutely adorable!  I hope that she and her family find joy in using this device and being able to enhance their level of communication for years to come.

Kate got to finally deliver her device, as well, and it was tried out immediately!

We also went to Milton's house to learn more about him.  He was just as cheerful and happy as ever!  Since we last saw him, he has received his prosthetic legs.  However, they do not fit and seem to be impractical to use well.  We will be doing some research on how we might be able to either improve them for him or find him an alternative.  We also got an extensive explanation of all the work that Camila has been doing to help improve his life as well as what additional needs he has.  Mitch is already designing something in his head and is planning to ship it to him by the end of the summer!

Only one day left of scheduled events and then we are headed back to the US.  I have very mixed emotions.  I am really going to miss the friends we've made here, but am leaving with great excitement about the future of our collaboration with UESC and the work we can do for the clinics and Camila.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Better than a postcard

When you think of postcards, you think of them capturing the beautiful scenery of a location so you can send it to your friends...perhaps to make them feel a bit jealous?  Well, just as a warning, everything you are about to see below is better than a postcard, and WILL make you jealous!  Today was absolutely AMAZING.  We got to hike through the forest to get to secluded beaches nestled between cliffs and take gorgeous pictures.  We also watched natives complete their artwork using local materials to sell at the artisan market.  Thank you, muito obrigada, for a wonderful day, Fabricio! 

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Planting a seed

This morning Eduardo, a graduate student in engineering at UESC, showed us around the materials labs.  It was interesting for the students to hear of the different materials used in polymers and other compounds here.  It was also very cool to see one of their new projects--a distillery!  They are trying to make beer with locally-grown ingredients instead of having to import barley from other areas around the world. 

We then went to the civil engineering lab where the students learned of the different materials (foam and piacava) that are being incorporated into the concrete to both increase the strength and reduce the weight.  They are also working on an interesting method of fitting concrete blocks together, where recycled bottles are used and the pieces fit together like Legos.  

Next came the part where, hopefully, we planted a seed.  The students presented their projects to UESC Intro to Engineering students.  The Sweet Briar and St. Ambrose students did a great job presenting their projects, and a big thank-you to Alana for being our interpreter today!  Students from UESC asked many thoughtful questions about considerations for mass production and testing of the devices.  They were also very interested in learning more about our programs.  In our answers we tried to emphasize how the devices being presented are not necessarily "the end."  Many need additional iterations or could benefit more people if they were taken to the "next level" (rigorously tested, a system designed for mass production, marketing and entrepreneurship, etc).  That would be a yet another great way to involve UESC students in this overall project.  We have really enjoyed the integration of UESC engineering students into our trip this time and hope that it is just the first step to a truly great integration and collaboration.  Thanks for all of your hard work on this Fabricio, Julianno, and Jose Carlos (sorry if I am not spelling your names correctly!!).

After another quick lunch at the Itabuna mall (and massive purchasing of Brazil soccer jerseys and t-shirts), we headed to a different clinic in Itabuna called CAPSia (Alana, you will need to re-remind me what that stands for!).  We were given a warm welcome by Maggie, the clinic coordinator, the staff, and the children and their parents, and everyone took a seat eager to hear about the students' projects.

Kate started the presentations by detailing the seat positioner she designed with Kelsey and Epiphany (all students at Sweet Briar).  The device is designed to prevent children between the ages of 5 months and 2 years from sitting in the 'W' position, where there hips and knees are abducted in a way that is not good for normal joint development.  The device is a chair that sits on the floor so the child can still play easily, but has longer sides so that the legs cannot be bent around and must stay out in front.  It is adjustable for three different sizes, has a tray, and is made out of a very fun fabric that is covered in plastic for easy washing.  Unfortunately, Kate will probably have to present her device again on Thursday, because it should actually go to CREADH.  Great job, though, Kate!

Kate also then presented the vest that was designed for Max by Hannah, Mandi, and Jessica (from Sweet Briar).  No one from the group was able to make the trip, so Kate took responsibility for explaining the device.  It is a fisherman's vest with blood pressure cuffs sewn in the sleeves so that Max can apply pressure to his arms himself to provide himself with therapy.  Max has autism, and when he sometimes becomes out of control, applying a bear hug to Max will really calm him down.  It is the hope that Max will learn to use the vest to calm himself down.  They also provided different games attached to the vest that Max can fidget with.  He was there and tried it on.  He and several of the students were dancing!  Hard to tell for sure, but I think he liked it!

Finally, Kiera presented the vestibular therapy devices designed by her group (Luke and Neil from St. Ambrose and Kiera, Emily, and Rosalie from Sweet Briar).  The group designed and built two separate devices.  The first device is a simple swiveling seat.  The second is a wobble board that was integrated into a game.  The idea is that the patient is to view different shapes on a device in front of them that is spinning (slowly), and they are to lean on the wobble board in the direction of the corresponding shape (which is velcroed to the board).  This will then help to train their senses to better integrate different inputs (visual and vestibular or proprioceptive, for example). 

Thank you to everyone for your hard work today!  I think the children enjoyed interacting with the students!