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If you don’t see a solution, make one.

A 3D printer gives Oregon State students tools to improve access to mobility

3D printer

For a child with disabilities, access to mobility makes a tremendous difference in their development and socialization. A selective laser sintering machine, more commonly known as a 3D printer, is giving Oregon State students a new tool to create and test structures that could improve a child’s access to mobility and play.

When Sam Logan, assistant professor and director of the Social Mobility Lab, learned about how 3D printers are being used to create adapted technology he saw a unique hands-on learning experience.

The 3D printer, funded by a Learning Innovation Grant, was installed in July 2018. Since then, students in Sam’s Honors College course Toy Based Technology for Children with Disabilities, as well as student clubs, have been learning computer-aided design (CAD) and investigating applications.

Although there is a 3D printer in Valley Library, Sam says having a printer in the Social Mobility Lab gives students greater access and flexibility to test ideas.

“We’re now in the testing phase, learning the equipment and experimenting with its capabilities,” Sam says. “Students have the freedom and flexibility to explore the functionality. They are currently researching the different applications of the printer for individuals with disabilities.”

Thomas Weathers, a computer science major, took the honors course and developed a sonar-triggered bubble gun that attaches to ride-on cars. Thomas used the class project to compete in the Toyota Unlimited Mobility Challenge and has turned it into his honors thesis.

Bubble gun for ride-on cars

Thomas also helps students in the Children’s Adaptive Resources for Social Mobility (CARS) club and in the Adaptive Technology Engineering Network, a student club comprising CPHHS and engineering students learn how to use and apply the printer.

Chloe Simpson, a doctoral student in kinesiology with an option in adapted physical activity, is experimenting with printing adapted bike handlebars and wheelchairs for dogs.

Another benefit of the printer – cost savings.

“The 3D printer allows us to create custom solutions for ride-on cars,” Sam says. Right now, adaptive switches for ride-on cars cost around $60. When a new design is finalized using the 3D printer, it will cost about $5.

More pictures of the 3D printer in action.