All posts by Kaitlyn Meuser

Innovation Lab Austin: Meet the Winners! !

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Congratulations to the winning team from the Austin Innovation Lab, 9’s Design! Their design, a wearable device aimed helping to promote employee independence, accessibility, and safety took the top prize. Here’s what team member, Tailor Dortona had to say about the ideas behind the device:

“People with disabilities are overwhelmingly vulnerable when it comes to emergency preparedness, so when we were tasked with solving a common workplace problem, emergency evacuations seemed the most logical problem to tackle. The security applicability of the device was inspired by the necessity to create something that ALL people would have a reason to wear, no matter their disability status. Having just ended an appointment with the U.S. Department of Navy, incorporating RFID chip technology into our wearable safety medallion seemed the best way to make our creation status quo while simultaneously promoting independence and increasing worker productivity.”

Teams formed two weeks prior to the event, getting to know each other and share project ideas virtually. By the day of the event, many teams were ready to go. During the event they brainstormed how to pitch their ideas and solve concrete problems, tapping into the insights of the many mentors circulating amongst the teams. Two days later, they got to show off their ideas the USBLN Expo Hall, along with many influential companies, pitching to potential investors, advisors, and employers. Attendees then voted on their favorites and the top two teams, 9’s Design and My Ears, got to pitch to the entire conference at the Closing Plenary session. A panel of judges, all business leaders with disabilities, then got an opportunity to question the teams on their innovations before voting for the final winner.

We were so happy with this event and with the enthusiasm and hard work of the participants. We hope this was an experience they can take with them and apply to all aspects of their profession and creative lives.

 Congrations again to all the members of 9’s Design: Joseph Uvalle, Jewel Melvin, Kathleen Uva,Paul Alan Williams,Tailor Dortona, Benjamin Griffiths, and Kevin Kundiger. A very special congratulations and thanks goes out to their team facilitators, Elizabeth O’Neal and Marcus Tuck. 

Thank you to all the participants and sponsors for helping to make a Innovation Lab Austin such a great success! A very special thank you to Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation and their Director Kevin Webb for serving our MC for the “Shark Tank”- style round of of presentations.

Check out the winning team and more photos from Innovation Lab Austin by visiting USBLN’s Instagram.

Take a look at the winning team 9’s Design and the runner-up, My Ears in their “shark tank” presentations:

(Innovation Lab Austin’s winning team 9’s Design presenting their wearable device at the USBLN Conference in Austin, TX. This device helps to equip people with disabilities in emergency situations, while remaining discrete in the workplace. The runner-up, team My Ears, created a speech to text smartphone application, helping to translate, as well as video playback for various disabilities, including both hearing and processing disabilities.)   




Device Helping Infants With Disabilities Learn to Crawl Showcased at Smithsonian Innovation Festival

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UCP was invited to The Smithsonian Innovation Festival to talk with Dr. Peter Pidcoe and Dr. Thubi Kolobe about their invention the Self-Initiated Prone Progressive Crawler or the SIPPC. The device was developed through a collaboration that came about when Dr. Kolobe, a physical therapy professor and researcher at The University of Oklahoma, and came to Dr. Peter Pidcoe, a Mechanical Engineer and Physical Therapist at Virginia Commonwealth University, with an idea: create a device that helps infants learn for themselves. When Dr. Kolobe began her research with young infants, particularly those who were not hitting normal motor milestones in development, specifically crawling, and wanted to find a way to help these children learn to move for themselves. She immediately knew the person she wanted to partner with on this project: Dr. Peter Pidcoe, her old colleague when they worked together at The University of Illinois at Chicago.   

20150926_125859The bodysuit that is placed on top of the infant.
20150926_125054The pieces used to create the SIPPC (underneath).

The following year, the SIPPC was born and evolved to have three different infant-controlled prototypes that help to assist movement. Taking into account both infant learning strategies and some engineering, an infant on the SIPPC is assisted during crawling by monitoring how they are moving, where they are shifting weight, and how they are moving their limbs. The motors under the SIPPC are used to guide the infant in their desired direction.

The SIPPC has continued to be refined and tested over time. Algorithms were created using the data collected by Dr. Kolobe. Information from the SIPPC  is used to better understand the movement development in children with neuromuscular disorders. One of the main goals in the design was making sure the device was user friendly and appropriate for the children. This meant making the device was wireless and covered to insure the baby’s comfort. The entire process from design to reality took several years, and the SIPPC has continued to evolve into what was displayed at the Festival, becoming a device suitable for the commercial market.

Using the SIPPC and a toy as motivation, Dr. Kolobe has been able to measure and record infants movements to get a sense of how they learn. Multiple funded trials have been undertaken to better understand the growth and development of infants as they learn to crawl. “It’s about autonomy” Dr. Kolobe says. Current prototypes have been constructed with both parents and therapists in mind. The SIPPC is not currently on the market, but the hope is to have them available in the near future. The prototypes were made in part using a 3D printer and a CNC machine.“The technology to me is priceless”, says Dr. Kolobe. “Without it, we would be waiting for a long time [for a device like this].”

20150926_124918Smart phone technology used for one of the prototypes.
20150926_124833One of the SIPPC prototypes created by Dr. Pidcoe.

The SIPPC is currently being used by Dr. Kolobe to understand brain patterns associated with movement to better understand how infants go about the decision-making process. The NSF-funded trial should be completed at the end of the year. Dr. Pidcoe continues to refine the design and apply it  for children with a various disabilities, including those who are visually-impaired.

For more information on the SIPPC and the Smithsonian Innovation Festival, click here.

For more information on VCU’s Physical Therapy Program, click here.

“Like” VCU on Facebook here!

A very special thank you to Dr. Peter Pidcoe and Dr. Thubi Kolobe for their contributions to this piece and to Sue Patow at Virginia Commonwealth University for helping to make this post possible.

UCP’s Life Labs Holds Innovation Lab at USBLN National Conference

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United Cerebral Palsy has partnered with USBLN, a national nonprofit that helps businesses drive performance by leveraging disability inclusion to host an Innovation Lab during USBLN’s 18th Annual National Conference & Biz2Biz Expo in Austin, TX at the end of September.

Innovation Lab, part of UCP’s Life Labs initiative brings together innovators from all walks of life to compete on teams to dream up the next big idea for people with disabilities. Using human-centered principles of Universal Design, the teams work with mentors and facilitators to tackle problems ranging from mobility to communication in an effort to help improve the every day lives of people with disabilities.

At the conference, Innovation Lab teams will consist of participants of the Career Link Mentoring Program. The program is a collaboration of USBLN and Cornell University’s Employment and Disability Institute, which provides a 6-month career mentoring opportunity to college students and recent graduates with disabilities through linkages to business professionals from USBLN member companies.

“Rather than continuing to retrofit our world to accommodate people with disabilities, there’s no reason why we can’t encourage future designs to work for people of all abilities,” said Gabriel Forsythe Y Korzeniewicz, Life Labs Program Manager. “Past Innovation Lab events have included people with and without disabilities – from students to engineers, to physical therapists and people from a variety of backgrounds. We’re excited that this will be our first Lab in which all of the competitors have disabilities. We’re interested to see what kinds of unique ideas will come from this group.”

From September 27-29 the Innovation Lab teams will compete for one of two opportunities to pitch their ideas “Shark Tank”-style to major corporate players such as IBM, Sprint, Verizon, 3M and Mitsubishi – all part of USBLN’s membership of 5000 of the top companies in America. On September 30, each team’s idea will on display at the Bizt2iz Expo so conference attendees can vote on which two ideas to elevate to the level of a pitch to potential investors.

The Story of Two “Brothers”

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Gabriel Forsythe y Korzeniewicz, Program Manager of UCP’s Life Labs, created this video with his brother, Adrián and good friend, Jake. It was originally intended as an entry in a video contest being held by a local Down syndrome nonprofit. Adrián has Down syndrome and the contest was meant to demonstrate the unique sibling relationship that often forms between individuals with disabilities and their brothers or sisters. Gabriel decided he wanted to create a professional grade short video about an issue atypical of the usual conversations about these sibling relationships.

“The three of us got in the car one late afternoon and started driving around. I threw out a few options for videos I had come up with, one of which would be showing my brother, two years older than me, how to drive,” said Gabriel. “All three of us agreed on this idea and we got our footage just as the sun was setting and night was settling in. Later that night, we went back home and had a beer while we talked about the video and how people should treat other people with disabilities.”

“I had been inspired to make a video that showed a sort of radical inclusion – one that is actually too egalitarian to be realistic – after reading Walt Whitman’s poem The Answerer. The poem describes a floating spirit or voice that answers for one’s brothers and for the world. This Answerer describes a world of absolute equality. It is a vision that is very moving for me. It would be great if my brother were my absolute equal in society and the practical world, if he could drive a car, if technology were advanced enough that he could operate the vehicle safely – but, he cannot. That night remains the only time he has ever driven.”

“It is a short piece of art, that, to me, depicts a world I would like to live in – a world that more closely resembles how I feel about my brother than our common, shared one often allows us to realize.”

Gabriel is currently working to foster innovation through UCP’s Life Labs. Adhering to the principles of human-centered universal design, Life Labs encourages the advances in technology and design that may one day allow people like Adrián to drive and engage in other activities which allow them to live a “life without limits.”


Brothers from jake snider on Vimeo.

Life Labs Welcomes New Program Manager, Gabriel Forsythe y Korzeniewicz!

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Life Labs is excited to announce a new addition to our team! Gabriel Forsythe y Korzeniewicz has been brought on board help advance Life Labs’ mission of identifying, developing, & supporting innovations that benefit people with disabilities.

Gabriel is joining the team at a very exciting time for Life Labs. Gabriel brings with him experience in tech startups, as well as a passion for disability. He will be taking the lead in expanding our Innovation Lab series as well as establishing a game-changing entrepreneurs program that will take our mission to the next level.

Gabriel was born with an older brother with Down syndrome and has worked to address issues affecting people with all kinds of disabilities since a young age. He first discovered that an entrepreneurial spirit could be applied to his passion for disability when he spent a summer of high school as a peer mentor for children with autism.

Since then, he has refined his approach to entrepreneurship and innovation. We first met Gabriel when we provided support to him as he ran a startup that used emotion-recognition technology for voice to help children with autism. Today, we are very happy to welcome Gabriel to the Life Labs team and to have his expertise in taking Life Labs to the next level!

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