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Girl Guides Use Technology Skills to Help Special Needs Community with 3D Printed Park Model

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The Sharjah Girl Guides were first established in 1973, and spread across the United Arab Emirates in the following years, leading to the establishment of the Girl Guides Association of the United Arab Emirates in 1979. The organization allows girls to develop as strong citizens and leaders, much like the Girl Scouts of America. As part of their own growth, the Girl Guides often end up helping others along the way, too. Such was the case with a recent project that demonstrated the girls’ impressive knowledge of technology as well as their commitment to making life better for others.

February has been designated as UAE Innovation Month, which grew out of Innovation Week in previous years. It was developed as a festival celebrating innovation across the UAE and aiming to strengthen the country’s position as a global innovation hub. Events include the launch of new national initiatives, showcases of products and services, hackathons and competitions, labs and workshops, and more across each of the Emirates. As part of Innovation Month, the Sharjah Girl Guides presented an innovation of their own.

Fifteen Girl Guides, aged 12 to 15, recently created a 3D printed model of a park that could be used by individuals with disabilities and special needs. It was the second of two projects for Sharjah’s own Innovation Week; the other involved a 3D printed book about iconic landmarks in Sharjah. The model of the park helped the girls develop their own CAD and 3D printing skills, as well as showing them how their work could help others in the community.

“Sharjah Innovation Week provided the perfect opportunity for the guides to not only challenge themselves in a technical environment but also required them to innovate in ways that could give back to the community,� said Shaikha Al Shamsi, Manager of the Sharjah Girl Guides. “The park model for children with special needs showed the guides’ skills in the design elements of the project and their understanding of how to accommodate children of various abilities and needs, and how to make their lifestyles more enjoyable and their leisure time more accessible.�

The park model and book were completed in six sessions, each of which took approximately three hours to complete the two projects. The park, while still in a concept stage, has the potential to be turned into an actual park at some point. The book, meanwhile, was created to educate both guests and visitors on Sharjah.

The Sharjah Girl Guides have often showed that they value technology, with other past activities including a 3Doodler workshop. Projects like this latest are a great example of the importance that organizations like the Girl Guides have in the lives of young girls, teaching them about the impact of technology as well as their own abilities to use it for good purpose. If the park does eventually get built, these girls will have become architects at a young age, and even if it remains simply a model, they will have learned valuable lessons about 3D design and 3D printing that they can take with them into the future – perhaps using them to directly impact the special needs community in another way.

Discuss this and other 3D printing topics at 3DPrintBoard.com or share your thoughts below. 

[Sources: Tahawul Tech, Gulf Today / Images: Sharjah Girl Guides]

3D printing helps UNC student meet critical wheelchair needs


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has had 3D printers for a couple of years, but they’ve always been restricted to certain classes. Now, as part of the university’s Research Hub Initiative, the printers are open to all students.

With the 3D printers available, students are using their creativity to solve real-world problems.

“It feels very futuristic and science fiction,” said grad student Jeffrey Olander. “I feel like we’re on the edge of something brand new here.”

Olander is using the printer to bring to life a design he created on a computer. Liquid plastic slowly layered to build a modified seat belt for his wheelchair.

“Rather than simply replacing an existing part, I decided to solve an issue that I’ve had for a while, which is that my seat belt tends to droop as I’m sitting in the chair,” Olander said.

He’s reworked the design several times and has also used the printer to create a part for his chair’s joystick.

That freedom comes as part of the university’s new Research Hub Initiative, which encourages UNC students, staff and faculty to explore emerging technologies.

“Your imagination is the limit,” said Danianne Mizzy, the head of Kenan Science Information Services. “We’re here to help people bring physical life and embodiment of their ideas.”

Right now printing is free for students; and depending on the complexity of the design, it can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 2 days to complete a project. The objects can be about a 1 foot wide and 6 inches tall.

“We’ve had a lot of people walk by and just come in like a shop off the street and ask what’s going on, take a look, they hear the noises, get a little tour,” said Erin Moore, a graduate student assistant. “Word of mouth spread to their friends, then we get a trickle of printing requests.”

This space in the science library also includes a 3D scanner, which is handy for duplicating parts. For example, Moore said, someone looking to fix a broken part on a dishwasher could scan a matching part and print a new one.

“There’s two matching parts on their dishwasher and one of them breaks,” Moore explained. “They’ll either scan it and recreate it and print it out, or use some digital calipers and just design it from scratch in the software.”

Olander said the access to 3D printing is saving him time and money as he tries to address real-world issues to help him get around.

“It’s very nice to be able to solve some of the challenges … that otherwise I have to defer to a supplier company or wait for insurance to go through its motions,” Olander said.

UNC Chapel Hill’s four 3D printers were each purchased using grants.

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