More than a year ago, Federation Innovation sponsored a Propel Pitch funding competition for social entrepreneurs in Atlanta. The first-place winner was a team from Georgia Tech known as Tikkun Olam Makers, or TOM. The Jewish Abilities Alliance (JAA) works closely with TOM. In 2022, JAA provided an Inclusion Microgrant to fund ASL interpreting services at the Makeathon and provided guidance and training around planning an event that is accessible and welcoming to individuals with disabilities.
The TOM movement started in Israel with a mission to serve the most neglected members of society — the elderly, people with disabilities, and the poor. This global movement brings together people with disabilities (known as “Need Knowers”) and people with creative abilities (known as “Makers”). TOM’s mission is to develop open-source assistive technology to address the everyday challenges faced by people with disabilities. At Georgia Tech, there are currently 10 projects in development. Federation’s Propel Grant provided a new infusion of funding that will help TOM scale up its team at Tech and establish new teams on other Georgia campuses.
Teddy Lambert, who leads TOM at Georgia Tech shared news about the 2022 Makeathon. “We had 30 students across 5 Maker teams working on 3 different challenges. Teams 1 and 3 developed a shower support and alert system for a Need-Knower with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), a condition that causes lightheadedness and fainting. They developed portable shower support handles that would provide extra grip if the Need-Knower became dizzy or lightheaded and alert a family member or partner to come to assist the Need-Knower. Team 2 was working on a visual phone notification system for a Need-Knower that is hard of hearing. They developed a lightbulb-sized LED notification device that could be placed around the house and connected to the Need-Knower’s phone. When the Need-Knower’s phone received a notification, the device would flash a certain color based on the alert type, allowing the Need-Knower to pinpoint when a call or text was received. Teams 4 and 5 created low footprint upright standers for a Need-Knower whose son has CP. The teams’ standers provided support for the child while allowing them freedom of motion in front and to the side, making it easier for the child to play with toys.
The Makeathon culminated in the virtual showcase. After an intense 48 hours of making, three judges and over 20 public spectators logged on to the virtual event to see all the work the Makers accomplished during the weekend. Team 1, which developed one of the shower support systems, was crowned the winner. Even after the Makeathon, the work continues. Multiple teams are now finalizing their designs, with hand-offs to the Need-Knowers expected by the end of the semester. The Makeathon was a huge success, and the rest of the TOM executive board and I can’t wait to start planning next year’s events!