Second annual Make-a-thon becomes popular community involved tradition

Students with their adapted toy at the 2018 Make-a-thon. (Photo by Darren Wilson, director of The Maker Lab)

The Maker Lab hosted their second annual Make-a-thon event on Dec. 1, building accommodations on toys for children with certain disabilities.

The Make-a-thon was held from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. as a “come-and-go” event. Lory Chrane, instructor of Communication Sciences and Disorders, originally came up with the idea for the workshop. In the field of speech and language pathology, Chrane said she often works with individuals with disabilities that require assistive technology or alternative communication.

“The materials and devices for assistive technology or augmented and alternative communication are often very expensive and by adapting them ourselves in the Maker Lab, the cost is drastically reduced,” Chrane said. “Everyone deserves the ability to access items we take for granted everyday such as turning on lights, turning on a toy, or turning on a blow dryer.”

Volunteers came in to adapt 28 mechanical toys, donated by the National Student Speech Language Hearing Association, with certain switches to better suit the kids and their disabilities. 10 of the Maker Lab’s student workers were present at the event to assist and guide the volunteers to tools and material inside the lab, but this year the Maker Lab created a website for volunteers to use from their phone and walk them through the step-by-step process.

“Most of the people coming in, whether they were ACU students or people from the community, they don’t have any experience,” Darren Wilson, director of the Maker Lab, said. “So part of the fun of that event, is them learning how to do something new. So it was really easy for someone that had never done anything like that before, to come in and just follow step-by-step at their own pace.”

Mobile access to the website gave volunteers pictures and descriptions of the rebuilding process. After each volunteer chose from the four different types of toys (a train, barking dog, bubble blower, and constellation light projector lamp), they could visit the website and access the instructions for that toy.

Wilson said that after inviting all of ACU students and faculty, as well as the outside Abilene community, well over 100 people showed up to help.

“It was a good size group,” Wilson said. “This will be one thing that we do every year. Everybody last year had such a good time and said to make sure we do it again. And then we had a lot more people this year, and everybody said this year, ‘Let us know when you do it again.’ So they are already looking forward to next year.”

The Maker Lab’s 2018 Make-a-thon successfully built 40 switches and adapted 28 toys to donate. The Make-a-thon partners with Region 14 Education Service Center to locate families and classrooms with kids that can benefit from the adapted items.

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