Carnegie Mellon University students have teamed up with senior citizens from the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute to help build prototypes to improve their quality of life.
Each team created an invention to solve everyday problems their collaborative senior may encounter. One team invented a daily reminder device, while another team built an appliance that helps file documents. Additionally, some students worked on creating a trivia game based on Bingo so a grandfather could play games with his six-year old granddaughter.
Other prototypes included a walking cane to help those with symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, a linear toggle to turn on a home’s exterior walkway lights, and an autonomous yarn spooler.
“Now I’ll have no excuses to get my projects done,” said Rebecca Hebert, a 67-year-old Carnegie Mellon alumna who knits. “This will save me time, money and won’t hurt as much.”
Andrea Chug’s team designed a filing system device for Maria Piantanida, 71-year old writer and home publisher.
“We wanted to see if we could reinforce the habit of filing papers when she had them in her hands,” said Chung. “Hopefully it will get her in a better habit of putting things in the right place instead of putting things on the floor.”
The teams were required to meet with their respective senior citizen in order to get a better idea of what their senior was struggling with. Each project catered to specific individual and helped mitigate the daily challenge they were enduring.
The instructor of the class, Robert Zacharias, said the prototypes would most likely need improvements before being sold in the market.
“The name of the game is to make lots of mistakes,” said Zacharias. “These are their first attempts.”
Zacharias said this project utilized a number of different skills including computer science, engineering, design, architecture, and communication. He also noted that it is a rare opportunity to be able to pair different generations and have them work collaboratively.
“It’s really rich to put students in dialogue with people who have actual problems that the students could actually help them with,” Zacharias said. “It’s also valuable to create an environment where there’s a comfortable interchange between people of different ages. Meeting with and trying to understand people who are different from the people students’ regularly interact with is good for everybody.”