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Weekend inventors will build tech for people with disabilities


2018 finale of the Tikkun Olam Makers makeathon.

Tikkun Olam Makers at Vanderbilt to host 48-hour makeathon starting today

Teams of makers will race the clock this weekend to create innovative solutions to the problems facing those living with disabilities in Nashville and beyond.

Beginning Friday, Jan. 18, at 5 p.m., 14 teams will have 48 hours to “make a difference” as part of Vanderbilt’s Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) makeathon in the university’s Innovation Center in the Engineering and Science Building.

The name Tikkun Olam, Hebrew for “repairing the world,” indicates the purpose of this worldwide effort to empower people living with disabilities through technology.

Each of this weekend’s projects is designed to fulfill a challenge submitted to TOM by or on behalf of those in need. In this way, teams can assist with practical rather than theoretical needs. Teams comprise students and professionals with varying degrees of experience, but participants are united in their desires to improve the lives of others.

Team presentations begin at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20. “Our makers should leave with an immense sense of pride and excitement for the lives they have changed and the things they were able to create,” said computer science junior Bradley Schwartz, the TOM event organizer.

Vanderbilt student Nicholas Ormsby looks forward to leveraging his engineering education to help his team create specialized swimming equipment for the Nashville Dolphins, a local organization that empowers swimmers with special needs.

Other TOM:Vanderbilt projects include a wheelchair fit for rugby practice and a customizable app that could assist a child with autism in making decisions such as what to eat.

“The TOM:Vanderbilt makeathon is part of a growing global movement to ‘make’ with a purpose,” said Vanderbilt’s Director of Making Kevin Galloway. “They create an environment for the sharing of information, expertise and technology, and at the end of the day, demonstrate that we all have the ability to make a difference in our community.”

Software developer Teresa Vasquez is inspired by her son, who has autism. “Tech has been a huge part of his journey and I want to share this with others,” said Vasquez. “Disability should not exclude anyone from having the life they want for themselves.”

Due to last year’s success, this year’s event has received a $10,000 grant from The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee as well as additional funding from AstraZeneca.

Sunday’s unveiling event will be held in the lobby of the Engineering and Science Building at 2414 Highland Ave. Click here for more information.

Contact: Brenda Ellis, (615) 343-6314
brenda.ellis@vanderbilt.edu