WALLK-ING the TALK!

Posted on 12/05/2016 by IED

Kids get hands-on with the Evolvable walking aid at The Big Bang Fair 2016

Imagine a show bursting with clever inventions, hands-on workshops and innovative ideas to give thousands of young people a glimpse of the exciting and rewarding opportunities to be found in the world of science, technology, engineering and maths. Well, that’s precisely what you’ll find at The Big Bang Science & Engineering Fair – one of the largest events to celebrate STEM for young people.

Amongst exhibitors at the recent Big Bang Fair 2016 at the NEC, Birmingham, was the unusually low-tech, yet intriguing ‘Project Wallk’ workshop. A social venture, it was founded in 2014 by industrial designer and GYM Group member Cara O’Sullivan. The project is fuelled by a seemingly humble vision that “The chance to walk should be offered to all”. But for many children with walking impairments who live in developing regions of the world, there is often no access to healthcare and as a result getting hold of a much needed walking aid is not easy.

“A walking aid can enable a child to attend school, integrate in the community and escape the disability-poverty cycle, so the mission of Project Wallk is to offer a long-term and affordable solution for mobility rehabilitation across developing regions of the world,” explains Katey Fitton, designer at Project Wallk.

The majority of designers and engineers in the UK tend to focus on developing products/services for consumers with disposable income (the top 10% of people in the world). Facilitators at the Project Wallk workshop were focused on teaching young visitors about designing appropriately for ‘the other 90%’ (the billions of people who don’t even have their basic food and water, shelter, sanitation, education and healthcare needs met). “We hope to inspire the next generation of innovators to focus on solving humanity's biggest design challenges” states O’Sullivan.

The main hands-on activity being run at the workshop was a product assembly challenge – to put together various walking aids from the innovative Evolvable Walking Aid Kit, as she explains. “This kit consists of a set of locally manufacturable parts made from half a wooden pallet and up to 24 cable ties, which can be assembled to form a walking frame, crutches or a walking stick. The whole kit can be locally produced in a sustainable manner using simple hand tools, for just 68 pence, and it will adapt to correctly support a child throughout their mobility rehabilitation process.”

Throughout the Big Bang Fair, feedback was collected about the Evolvable Walking Aid Kit’s visual assembly instructions to ensure it will be as intuitive as possible to assemble. The Project Wallk team are now in Uganda testing out the kit’s manufacturability and assembly instructions with locals.

The Big Bang Fair proved to be an excellent platform for Project Wallk to simultaneously collect design feedback and share their passion with such a large young audience, hopefully inspiring some to follow in their ambitious footsteps.

Project Wallk is an open source project seeking support from the design and engineering community. If you’re interested in supporting the project or fnding out more, please contact info@wallk.org or visit www.facebook.com/Meru.llama

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