HACKCESS – HACKATHON TO THE POWER OF GOOD

 

Recently the maker community had a fantastic opportunity to come together and show how product creation is now something that is open to more people than ever before, together with the opportunity that this presents for everyone to become innovative in providing solutions to everyday problems.

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HACKCESS was a two day hackathon held at Goldsmiths University in London which was a collaboration by FabLab London and Whizz-Kidz, a disability charity that transforms the lives of young disabled people by providing the equipment, support and life skills they need, when they need them – giving them the chance to develop their full potential.

 

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The event was the chance to show how a community of designers, makers, 3D printing and software experts could collaborate over a weekend to help disabled people live more independent lives, improving accessibility through technology.

The weekend was supported by Autodesk with their Fusion 360 CAD software, and Ultimaker GB who were on hand with a bank of 3D printers and 3D printing expertise. In this blog I’ll explain how all these resources come together at a hackathon like this to create brand new products and design solutions.

For my part I attended the second day, and was partnered with a wheelchair user who has been supported by Whizz-Kidz, which gave me an opportunity to understand an everyday convenience problem of how to carry a larger shopping bag, such as a “Bag For Life”, on the back of a wheelchair without it dragging on the ground.

After studying the structure at the back of the chair (shown below) for a few minutes and asking a few questions about what was important a concept started to formulate in my mind.

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At this stage the best thing to do is not to pick up the laptop, but instead use a more traditional method of pen and paper to sketch out the concept noting some of the major dimensions. This made it much quicker to communicate my idea and check that it was likely to be suitable.

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I explained the concept sketch, and after discussing it together we agreed it would provide a possible solution, so then it was time to start turning that sketch into a 3D design using Autodesk Fusion 360.

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Once that part was done it was time to use 3D printing to turn it into a physical prototype using one of the Ultimaker2 3D printers that were available.

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The first two parts of the design were fairly quickly printed out, and in the space of just a few short hours we had gone from describing the problem through to a first prototype that we could try out.

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Unfortunately designing isn’t always a “right first time” process, and so it proved to be in this case. I didn’t have sufficient detail dimensions off the complex moulding that I was trying to mount onto, so the assembly didn’t fit correctly.

Time for a rethink, and a modification to the concept. In this case the best way to do that was to “hack” the 3D print and then patch it back together to represent the revised design. In engineering speak this is a process we call “cut & shut”.  First of all I used tape to reposition the elements and then plasticine to “set” the final position so that I could take some revised dimensions.

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With so much going on at the event this would be as far as I got on the day, but I was so enthused by what had been achieved in such a short space of time that I carried on in the days after the event to modify the design and print out a revised version shown below.

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I hope this blog gives you some idea of what happens at a hackathon. In this case it was so satisfying to work on solving a real-life day-to-day challenge for a young disabled person.

We have some great technology available these days to help us, but the real power in hackathons like this lies with the people involved. Their innovation and creativity make the difference, and at HACKCESS there were so many great people involved from every aspect, all wanting to be part of doing something amazing.

I’m sure there will be more of these in the future, I know I want to be involved again, and I hope this blog will encourage you to join us. (If you need any further encouragement I forgot to say the food provided to fuel everyone through the course of the event was absolutely fantastic!)

Many thanks to Ande Gregson (Founder of Fab Lab London) and Gurvinder Gregson (Head of Fundraising Events at Whizz-Kidz) for pulling such an inspiring event together.

Steve Cox

Education Ambassador

CREATE Education Project – Ultimaker GB

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