The Student Voice series is comprised of first person voices from students that are learning in Highly Effective, Learning Progressive schools.
My name is Sara. I am fourteen years old. I decided to leave the traditional school system because I was uninspired and increasingly bored in class. During the school day, I would often doodle and sketch as a way to transport myself to an imaginary world that was without limits, full of color and depth. I am told that I have an inquisitive nature, but this inquisitiveness was slowly and gently being suppressed. I felt as if my questions were becoming a burden to the class, rather than the start of meaningful discussions.
I came to NuVu looking for a different experience, one that challenged me and allowed my creativity to flow. After spending a year here, I find myself growing above even my expectations, moving beyond the visual arts, in which I am naturally strong, and improving my engineering and technology skills.
Today is day seven of the Hacking Wheelchairs for Urbanity (https://goo.gl/owoJEL; NuVu, 2018) studio at NuVu. Twelve of my classmates and I are examining the challenges wheelchair users face in urban environments and developing low-cost solutions to improve their daily experiences and enable better integration with the rest of society. The Hacking Wheelchairs for Urbanity studio is one of sixteen studios NuVu is offering in its cities-themed trimester.
I begin the day with a quick recap with my teammate Karam. We discuss some challenges of the latest prototype for our wheelchair hand drive, a system that allows the wheelchair user to move faster with an unorthodox rowing motion that also exercises different muscles. We discuss a new iteration of our free-wheel mechanism. The NuVu coaches who are leading the studio, Chris and Rana, approach our team for the first of many daily deskcrits, in which they ask questions and offer feedback on our progress. As a group, we discuss ideas for the free-wheel mechanism. We decide to spend the day producing a 3-D model and then 3-D printing the parts for testing.
By the afternoon, the parts are printed, and we dive straight into assembly. We spend most of the afternoon in the workshop. During an early test, I realize we’ve made a critical mistake: the free wheel doesn’t come out of the adapter piece. After a good deal of prying, it eventually pops out. We mount all the components to the wheelchair: the rod adapter, the rod, a ninety-degree turn for the arm, and the spider adapter.
We are ready to perform an advanced test. I sit in the wheelchair with the hand drive mounted to the wheel, and gently push the handle. I don’t apply much force, but it cracks. I push harder and it breaks completely. The pieces fly everywhere!
We check in once again with our coaches toward the end of the day. Their feedback affirms the team’s conclusion: our design was too brittle. For the next iteration, we decide to add thicker mounting legs and introduce a higher infill for the 3D-printed parts to make the parts stronger.
We end the day documenting our day’s work. Our blog post includes a detailed summary of our design decisions, iterations, and failures. It comprises a synthesis of what we have learned and our projections for tomorrow, another day of modifying and refining our design for the hand drive.