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The Intercollegiate Assistive Technology Hackathon in April 2024

Team Jasper hard at work.
Picture of Julie Hahnke
Julie Hahnke
Julie is the President of Cecropia Strong and is a stroke survivor, who was finally found after three days. She's a bagpiper, an author, a management consultant, and a nature enthusiast.

This post was written by Kevin Berner, OT, OTD, OTR, ATP, who’s the Assistant Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy at the MGH’s Institute of Health Professions.

The 2024 Intercollegiate Assistive Technology Hackathon ran from April 5 to April 12, 2024.  The hybrid event paired 40 students from Tufts University, Boston University, and MGH Institute of Health Professions with 11 “co-designers” (individuals from the community with disabilities) to address an independent living or accessibility challenge by iterating, designing, and fabricating a simple assistive technology device.

The result was 11 creative and unique solutions, numerous new connections, and lots of learning about accessibility, design, and collaboration. 

Members of Team Colleen work on their design at Tuft's University.
Members of Team Colleen work on their design at Tuft's University.

After the team presentations at the closing ceremonies, judges met to choose winners of the three awards: most collaborative for the team that worked best together, most functional for the device that was most ready to use, and most innovative for the device that was most creative and an improvement on current technologies.  

This year, the most collaborative award went to Team Moira, whose nursing student and OT student worked closely with Moira and her mother to develop a custom key-guard so she could be more accurate with her communication device. 

The most functional award went to Team Jasper, whose team adapted a “hospital-safe” star-projector toy to bring joy to Jasper and help him reinforce valuable case-and-effect skills.  The most innovative award went to Team Lisa, whose engineering and OT students collaborated to develop two devices to help Lisa achieve greater independence in administering daily eye drops and nasal spray.  

Team Moira meets over zoom to discuss the project. Team Moira won the Most Collaborative award.
Team Moira meets over zoom to discuss the project. Team Moira won the Most Collaborative award.

Cecropia Strong provided financial support for teams to purchase raw materials and for awards for the winning teams.  Co-chairs Jennifer Buxton (Boston Children’s Hospital & Tufts University), Loren McMahon (Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston University) and Kevin Berner (MGH Institute of Health Professions) are looking forward to the 2025 Intercollegiate Assistive Technology Hackathon!

Photo caption for the featured image: 

Members of Team Jasper work to adapt the hospital-safe star projector for switch activation. Team Jasper won the “most functional” award.

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