MAKERS of Change Assistive Technology Challenge: Improving the Lives of Children with Disabilities

MAKERS of Change Assistive Technology Challenge: Improving the Lives of Children with Disabilities

Written by Cassandra Savel, associate analyst, corporate social responsibility

The MAKERS of Change Assistive Technology Challenge in 2019. Photo Courtesy of Southwest Human Development.

Student teams present their solutions virtually at the 2020 MAKERS of Change Assistive Technology Challenge. Photo Courtesy of Southwest Human Development.

Friday, June 18, 2021 - 8:45am

CAMPAIGN: ON Semiconductor Foundation

CONTENT: Blog

Assistive technology helps people with disabilities in their day-to-day lives, including those who have difficulty speaking, pointing, hearing, learning and more. Any type of equipment, tools or devices that make social or learning experiences more accessible for this population helps to improve overall quality of life. Recognizing the impact of assistive technology, the ON Semiconductor Foundation has dedicated resources to fund initiatives supporting innovation and education around related science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) programs in the community. 

In spring 2020, the ON Semiconductor Foundation provided a grant to  Southwest Human Development to support the MAKERS of Change Assistive Technology Challenge, where young makers apply cutting-edge technology towards improving the lives of children with disabilities. High school students took part to advance their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) knowledge while learning about the practical application of assistive technology solutions. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the MAKERS of Change event was held virtually this past year. As a positive outcome of this shift to a virtual format, more high school student teams were able to compete and get involved in this exciting opportunity. Over a course of two months, 86 students on 13 teams from four high schools and one nonprofit organization from across Maricopa County participated in a challenge focused on creating assistive technology software solutions. Teams met virtually over the eight weeks of developing projects, culminating in a day of virtual presentations when judges assessed projects and presented awards. 

Milton Johnson, teacher and coach at Bioscience High School, expressed:

“I think many of the groups definitely felt proud of their work and were inspired by what they were able to accomplish. Also, the feeling of engineering for a cause has a lot of impact for our students. These are real projects that can make a difference for someone.”

One student team from Phoenix Union’s Bioscience High School tested the idea of using Google’s Teachable Machine site, an accessible way to create machine-learning models, to run image recognition software. Another Bioscience team developed a video game concept later adopted at learning centers of ACCEL, an organization that serves students with developmental disabilities.

With about 30% of participants being young women, there was a 15% increase in the percentage of young women over previous years. The diverse array of participants also included low-income and minority students, as well as a team from the Science Prep Academy consisting of neurodiverse students with autism. 

The student teams collaborated and consulted with technology professionals, who provided guidance and support as the software solutions were developed. Participants reported that their knowledge of STEAM was broadened by learning about software designs that could be used to help students with disabilities. Around 25% of participating teams also decided to continue to develop their assistive technology project post-competition with aims to improve design, functionality and to continue learning. 

Advancing STEAM education to benefit society is a primary focus of ON Semiconductor’s giving and volunteerism programs. We were grateful to sponsor the MAKERS of Change Assistive Technology Challenge this past year and are excited to see the program continue to expand. Through educational opportunities and challenges that aim to improve the lives of people with disabilities, students can become inspired to use their STEAM knowledge for good and become lifelong change makers in their community.

In 2014, June 18 was proclaimed as the official National Day of Making. This project allows us to celebrate every maker – from students learning STEAM skills to entrepreneurs launching new businesses to innovators powering manufacturing. Let’s continue to spark creativity and encourage invention in communities around the globe. 

Learn more about how ON Semiconductor is involved making a positive impact on the lives of children in the local community at https://www.onsemi.com/about/foundation/community.