Thursday, May 30, 2013

Splits Baratta: Adaptive Tech and the Maker's Movement

Contrary to what you may be thinking, Splits Baratta is not an Atlantic City show girl. She is a special needs duckling. Hatched just this Memorial Day, Splits is a champion for the Maker's Movement. She was born with a duck form of hip dysplasia. Hence the name. Other duckling Moms may have given up on Splits but not Angeline Baratta and her duckling mom mentor Beth Ahee. Beth suggested Ang move Splits in with the healthier ducklings when Splits and her sibling, affectionately known as Tumor, were languishing in the incubator. Splits went to Ang. Tumor to Beth. Both were welcomed into their brood. Tumor began to thrive within hours. So much so he was renamed Butterball. Splits made her way to the food dish where she spread out and stayed, making her none too popular.

Cut to Rosemary Barker, the Grosse Pointe Academy's consistently cheerful, ever determined, school nurse. She looked into the duck defect and discovered that it can be corrected with physical therapy. It was suggested that the duckling's legs be taped together. Splits was not at all happy with this arrangement. (Her outrage was adorable though.) So, Rosemary tenasciously tried a number of different everyday objects to force Splits' legs together including a tiny condiment cup and a toilet paper roll. This combo seemed to do the trick. When Splits is in the cup she can move her little winglets to balance and stand. When she is in the toilet paper roll she is calmer but it holds her legs in place. After just a couple of sessions, Splits was walking more normally. We are confident after a few days of physical therapy she has a fighting chance at a quacking good life. (Sorry. I couldn't resist.)


The maker's movement is founded on playful inquiry.  Rosemary's quest was born of necessity. This makes a powerful combination. Jay Silver, wearer of merry pants and inventor of Makey Makey, An Invention Kit for Everyone talks about all the uses of his whimsical kit in his fascinating TED Talk: Hack a Banana.  Jay shares the story of a father who used his kit to make computers more accessible for his child with Cerebral Palsy. Depending on the nature of the spasticity, many people with CP are limited to a single switch for communication with a computer. This resourceful Dad put the Makey Makey Kit into a glove and used Conductive Paint to create a circuit along the thumb and first finger. Viola! His child now has multiple entry options. The Makey Makey Kit along with Conductive Paint opens adaptive technologies to a whole universe of possibilities.

We will have an Innovation and Design Center at GPA next year, filled with fun things like Makey Makey, Conductive Paint, A MakerBot 3D Printer, and littleBits. I can't wait to see what they invent!


MaKey MaKey - An Invention Kit for Everyone from jay silver on Vimeo.


What is littleBits? from littleBits on Vimeo.


Ayah Bdeir is the inventor of littleBits. She is also the wearer of some cool and funky boots. 

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