The Invention Factory Students Aid Children with Disabilities

Two students at Waipahu Intermediate show off a toy that they have modified for children with disabilities.

Teenagers from several intermediate and high schools have contributed modified toys and switches to community institutions that serve disabled children through the Invention Factory program. Students in this nontraditional, after-school program have worked with Shriners Hospital, Kapi‘olani Children’s Hospital Speech and Hearing Clinic, the Hawai‘i Department of Health Early Intervention Program, and the Hawai‘i Department of Education special education teachers to create modified toys that meet specific needs. Projects are carefully defined to include the client student as an equal partner in the design and invention process with the Invention Factory student-designers. In its first year, Invention Factory students contributed over one hundred toys and switches to the community. A lending library of toys that Invention Factory students have modified is maintained by the Assistive Technology Resource Center of Hawai‘i.

The Invention Factory is a youth-based program that teaches information technology and mechanics to teenagers through hands-on projects that improve human computer interaction for disabled and elderly individuals.

In addition to providing real devices to contribute to the community, the Invention Factory program stimulates interest in science and engineering careers among students currently underrepresented in those fields: women, Native Hawaiians, students with disabilities, and students at risk of academic failure. Students learn sufficient electronics, mechanics, mathematics, and computer programming to enable them to develop needs analysis, design, fabrication, and evaluation of devices that meet the needs of disabled people. This learning, in turn, promotes science, engineering, and mathematics subjects to teenagers. The broader outcome is that students who create technology-based solutions that impact people have substantially increased motivation to pursue careers in engineering and science.

Invention Factory Community Partners

Waipahu Intermediate School
Dole Middle School
Farrington High School
Kalākaua Middle School
Roosevelt High School
O‘ahu’s leeward coast home schools
The Assistive Technology Resource Center of Hawai‘i
Shriners Hospital
Hawai‘i Department of Education
Kapi‘olani Children’s Hospital Speech and Hearing Clinic
Hawai‘i Department of Health Early Intervention Program