Thursday, March 23, 2017

Science Fair

When Elena started 6th grade, we talked about the Science Fair. When I was young, it was mandatory--and I knew that if Elena was to do a quality project, we'd have to start early. So, we started discussing ideas in September 2016,  and the project began shortly after. We found out in January 2017 that the Science Fair was optional. She wanted to do a project that "might help people like me with CP". I suggested she incorporate 3D printing. We have access to a 3D printer through our local library (and they have some at school, but not in any of Elena's classes at that time).

Elena decided to try to make handed grips for her crutches. As we were researching this idea, we noticed that there weren't options for kids that were readily available. They are common for adults, especially those that use canes. Handed crutches (anatomical grips) are supposed to be more comfortable and reduce fatigue.

Our orthotist let us use his 3D scanner to create 3D images. We had to make hand impressions on molds on her crutch handles--we planned on using play-doh, but when the time came we couldn't find any--so I quickly made some pasta dough and we used that. It was a bit rushed, but the strong dough was probably a better substrate than soft play-doh.

Elena took the images and manipulated them using the program 3D Builder. I helped with this--E knows the program better than I do, but I can visualize things in a 3D space better than she can. Together we made a decent team. We printed out some grips, made some changes, tried again, etc. Elena ended up with a pair of handed grips, with memory foam on the bottom (adhesive backing), and attached them with a velcro strap to her crutch handles.

We brought them to her therapy center to see if other crutch users liked them. There were only two other kids there who were able to try them; we'd like a bigger sample size. Both users were much bigger than Elena. They both really liked the feeling of the grip between the thumb and forefinger, but didn't like the rest of the mold b/c it was too small (E's mold edges around her palm, and this was uncomfortable for the bigger kids). We compared the 3D printed grip to different grips that were commercially available (both at the therapy center and at the Science Fair). The grips tested were Elena's own: gel wraps (a cushy, large handle cover that E doesn't like b/c they slip and they get sweaty) and neoprene sleeves (thin, slight cushion; slippery when sweaty). E prefers her plain handles over both of these.

(As an aside, this entire project--making molds, manipulating files, putting together the poster and scrapbook was no joke. It's like...executive function on steroids. If your kid has issues with this, I cannot stress enough....START EARLY!)

Presenting: E's Science Fair Debut!

Customize Your Gait

I like Elena's project name. Her hand placement and comfort does affect how she walks, so I think it's a fitting title.

Presenting at her first Science Fair

On the table is a scrapbook that details how the grips were made/scanned, and how the files were manipulated. There are also different versions of the printed grips (in blue plastic).

Here are a few page excerpts:

Notes from 3D Builder

Final Files and the prototype printed models

We brought old crutches and put different grips on each handle, allowing visitors to try out the grips and vote.

Which handgrip is your favorite?

Plain Handle
Gel Wrap
Neoprene Sleeve
3D printed

Elena's project was entered in the Demonstration Category. She did a great job explaining her work to the judges and the public. One judge gave her future access to a 3D scanner, and a 3D printer (with different filaments), and said she should enter the regional fair next year! We plan on trying this.

Want to help us?

We will be uploading these 3D files to Thingiverse, a database that has 3D files for use to modify and print. If you have access to a 3D printer, you can use our file (or our future files) and try it yourself! We'd love to hear about your experiences.

She did not win, but got an honorable mention in her category. We are very proud of her!

FYI: Elena prefers these grips to her plain handles, and has been wearing them since the week before the Science Fair. She's making a list of things to tweak for next time.

**this post will be updated once our files are uploaded to Thingiverse. Check for future posts under the keyword "crutch grips"

1 comment:

Margot said...

Amazing job E! Where can I get a pair of your fabulous grips??! :)