Christmas Toy Adapt-A-Thon for F.A.A.S.T.

How do you switch-adapt over 100 toys for kids in a single day? Over 40 volunteers working over 8 hours of controlled chaos certainly helps!

Thank you to our two FRC Teams (Roaring Riptide #4118 & GRA-V #5816), FACTUR for the use of their event space & equipment, U.F. Engineering’s B.O.T.S. team, LessonPix.com for financial support (and Pizza!) and everyone who gave their Sunday to help out the kids F.A.A.S.T. serves!

About the Make-A-Thon

Earlier this year, Florida’s Tech-Act organization the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST) reached out to ATMakers to help improve their annual Christmas Toy Drive.

Each year, FAAST raises money to provide switch-adapted toys for children in their community who cannot physically interact with toys without special adaptation.  The problem was adapted toys are expensive, and the number of children is high.

This year, ATMakers provided a motivated, talented work force (high-school Robotics Club members), a great facility (the flexible space at the FACTUR Maker Space in Orlando, and a leadership team that planned, documented, and executed the event.

The results?  This year, FAAST will deliver over 100  toys to children at Christmas.  Compared to last year where they spent more money and provided only 15.

Just as importantly, the teens earned service hours doing something they love (engineering), learned that their skills are important and valuable to the community, and generally had a great time.

Who’s Involved?

This event was first suggested by FAAST Board Member Carole Zangari of Nova Southeastern University, and was supported by the entire FAAST staff.

We want to thank the following groups for their support – without you we could never have done it:

  • FACTUR Maker Space provided their flexible space for the event, as well as tools and support for the event
  • LessonPix provided financial support, coordination & volunteers as well as pizza for the whole crew
  • Roaring Riptide (FRC Team #4118) brought their entire crew down from Gainesville and helped with the planning in July
  • GRA-V (FRC Team #5816) from Orange County Florida provided a certified Soldering Instructor as well as fantastic teens who worked all day
  • B.O.T.S. from the University of Florida are now experts in adapting My Pal Scouts (since our event at UF last year) so they led that effort (and the similar Spider Man adaptation)
  • Students from the University of Central Florida department of Speech and Language Pathology sent students (and professors!) who had never soldered before – and they rocked!  (Check out Nancy Harrington of UCF and FAAST refuse to give up in the time lapse video!)
  • FAAST brought their own staff and board makers (all Maker rookies) who all learned to strip (wires!), solder and remember to put on the heat shrink tubing

What was it like?

Here’s a quick live video interview I did during the event – it shows how hard all these folks worked!

What comes next?

Unfortunately, we have about 15 toys that still need to be completed because the adaptation we attempted wasn’t working.  Steve Bowman from GRA-V (Team #5816) and his team will take them back to their workspace and rework them this week (they’ll figure out a more stable plan).  Those will get shipped out next week.

In the meantime, FAAST is sending the toys to their regional centers where they’ll be carefully wrapped and presented to the kids around Christmas.

ATMakers has published initial versions of our toy adaptation guides  and will update them to make them easier to follow.

How can I get involved?

Join us here at ATMakers.org and also join the Facebook Group if you can.  The Facebook Group has the most active discussion with the main site acting as a publishing repository of completed projects.  We are looking for folks to help out in both technical and non-technical projects, so we’d love to have you!

More Views of the Event!

Some tweets and pics from our friends: