HuskyADAPT toy hackathon event with Microsoft

Younger woman in purple giving a presentation on two projection screens in a design space while a many others wearing green shirts look on Several people, two in green shirts and one in a black shirt, listen to a young gentleman in a gray jacket as he talks about the toys in front of him

Alyssa Spomer along with HuskyADAPT (Accessible Design & Play Technology) hosted the first-ever adapted toy Hackathon with Microsoft. The event combined design and toy adaptation, as teams of HuskyADAPT students and Microsoft employees worked together to adapt toys and develop new designs for adapted toy switches and switch mounts.

Groups of people sitting around wooden tables with parts strewn about, many of them wearing greens shirts, with a younger gentleman writing on a white board with another gentleman smiling at the table and examining what he is writing  A woman wearing a orange jackets and black shirt and a man wearing a green shirt smiling while holding a toy in front of a workshop

Over 25 Microsoft employees joined 20 students, including the Steele Lab’s own Alyssa Spomer, Nicole Zaino, Charlotte Caskey, and Elijah Kuska, in the CoMotion MakerSpace for this community-focused and adaptive driven workshop.

Large group of individuals smiling in a workshop while holding toys

During the day-long hackathon, over 20 toys were adapted to incorporate a new switch mechanism to facilitate play and several new inexpensive switches, toy-type converters, and switch mounting systems were designed and prototyped.  Thank you to the Microsoft employees, for their willingness and commitment to assist those in need, the CoMotion MakerSpace volunteers, for allowing us to use their space, and our HuskyADAPT team and lab members, for their dedication to outreach events.

US Patent Office Visit

Patent examiners spend their days critically evaluating the latest innovations, to determine if they are useful, novel, and non-obvious. When one of our students asked them what daily life is like as a patent examiner they responded, we basically write a 10-15 page report every 2-3 days.

Thankfully the patent office lets them escape from behind their computers a few times a year to meet with companies, research labs, and other entities. These visits help them see what is new and exciting in their specialty area.

We were lucky enough to host one of these teams this past week in the AMP Lab. Tim Stanis, a primary examiner from Art Unit 3786 that specializes in exoskeletons, orthoses, passive motion rehabilitation devices, and biomechanical technology led the visit. He was joined by nine other examiners.

One of the patent examiners in a red checkered shirt answers students questions. He is seated at a table with hands clasped in front of him.

Our lab demoed our latest creations in orthoses, biofeedback systems, and smartphone sensing. Patrick Aubin from the VA Hospital, Murray Maitland from Rehab Medicine, Chet Moritz from Electrical Engineering, and Tapo Bhattacharjee also shared their latest work.

We ended the session with a Q&A Panel for summer students to learn about career opportunities as a patent examiner and advice for new innovators. Most of the examiners had an undergraduate or master’s degree in engineering. They emphasized that working for the patent office is a great, flexible career path. As a patent examiner they are able to work remotely, have flexible hours, and enjoy other benefits such as having law school paid for.

Students listen attentively to the Q&A Panel. Some look bored, some look amused, and one is even taking notes, or maybe doodling!

For new innovators, they emphasized the importance of understanding the patent landscape. They recommended using Google Patents! Patents can seem intimidating. They recommended starting with the pictures and focusing on the claims. They also emphasized the importance of having a team. Translating technology requires team members with technical, business, and clinical backgrounds.

For our part, we were excited to meet real, live patent examiners. We appreciated seeing their faces and enjoyed sharing our work with them.

Members volunteer in the Special Olympics

Alyssa Spomer, Karley Benoff, and Michael Rosenberg volunteered at the cheer line, bocce,  and tennis sporting events as well as the awards ceremony for powerlifting at the Special Olympics. The University of Washington was proud to host this fantastic sporting event, the athletes from all over the country, and fans, family, and coaches. Congratulations to all of our athletes! 

Alyssa Spomer and Karley Benoff sit behind a fold out table underneath a white tent as they provide answers for athletes and families alike. The desk has two purple informational signs that read, "Sports Information Desk" and "Real-Time Results"

Purple and green tennis courts at UW span the photo. In the foreground an athlete finishes his/her serve as referees and volunteers look on.


Students lead toy hack at Expanding Your Horizons Conference

Expanding Your Horizons (EYH website) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing gateway opportunities for female middle and high school students to become more involved in STEM activities and careers. Two of our Steele Lab teams participated. Michael Rosenberg and Momona Yamagami created a remote control car you can control using muscle activity, and engaged in hands-on learning with the young women. Members of the University of Washington’s HuskyADAPT (Accessible Design & Play Technology) team, including lab members Brianna Goodwin, Brandon Nguyen, and Karley Benoff, led a workshop yesterday on accessible design and adaptation of toys for children with varying abilities.

A total of 12 toys were adapted to incorporate a new switch mechanism to facilitate play, and 26 high school women learned about toy adaptation, soldering, and circuitry. Thank you to our HuskyADAPT team and our lab members for their dedication to outreach events!