Florida’s Holiday Hack-a-thon Adapts Toys for Kids with Disabilities

FB hack-a-thon photo

Last year, Florida’s Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST) gave away switch-controlled toys for children with disabilities. The state’s AT Program held a 5K run and raised enough funds for 10 to 15 specially designed toys to bring more cheer in time for the holidays. This year, while decreasing their spending, FAAST expects to serve many dozens more children with toys they can operate. What’s their secret?

Why, a community hack-a-thon, of course!

ATMakers, the organization founded by Bill Binko that’s dedicated to bringing together makers and AT users, has teamed with FAAST to transform their holiday gift-giving in true maker-movement fashion.

On November 19th, at the Factur maker space in Orlando, FAAST and ATMakers will adapt well over 100 toys with the help of Factur members, regional robotics teams, and individual makers who want to help. If you live in Florida and would like to learn how to switch-adapt off-the-shelf toys, this is a great opportunity! You’ll be joined by the University of Florida’s BOTS, F.I.R.S.T Robotics Team 4118 (the Roaring Riptide), Olympic High School’s Robotics Team, and Guardian Angels Catholic Schools STREAM Team.

ATMakers is delighted to help FAAST reach so many children in time for the gift-giving season. FAAST is providing the toys and the AT needs and wants of specific children the program serves. “We’ll adapt a variety of toys,” Binko says. “We’ve worked with other charities like Santa’s Little Hackers to learn what works well and then asked FAAST to get the kids’ favorites. This year we’ll be adapting everything from My Pal Scouts and Violets to Bubble Blowers and Fart Guns!”

FAAST Executive Director Michael Daniels is excited by the collaboration and notes it not only serves young children with disabilities in Florida, it also provides a unique service opportunity for the student volunteers. “They’re earning service hour credits they can use for Florida’s Bright Futures scholarship program. So the event benefits young Floridians in different ways,” he says.

To get ready for the hack-a-thon, ATMakers held a preliminary MakerDay event last July. The day served as a dry run and allowed ATMakers to capture the steps required to adapt specific toys. Binko plans to share these instructions at ATMakers.org to encourage more hacking and help grow the AT maker movement.

“These early toys are often the first thing that a child can control,” he emphasizes. “Once they understand they can control a toy, it’s not a huge step to controlling a device to make requests, and from there to richer communication.  Plus, these are kids — they need to play for proper brain development and often the number of toys they can engage with is limited.  We’re thrilled to be getting this opportunity to help so many this year!”

This weekend’s hack-a-thon details:

When: Sunday, November 19th from 9 AM – 5 PM

Where: FACTUR (maker space)
520 Virginia Drive, Orlando, Florida 32803

How to register: sign up at this ATMakers Events Facebook Page by Thursday, November 16th or contact Eric at ATMakers.org

Learn more about ATMakers and the AT Maker Movement
Find your State AT Program