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With Enable Makeathon 2.0, ICRC wants to innovate empowerment

Enable Makeathon 2.0 wants to use innovation around locomotor, hearing and sight disabilities to change the lives of specially-abled people everywhere

The maker movement in India has shown a lot of promise. With maker spaces and hackathons across the country, aspiring makers have a lot of avenues to explore with their ideas and enthusiasm. The International Committee of the Red Cross, along with its partners, want to channel these very ideas and enthusiasm to drive innovation in the field of healthcare with the Enable Makeathon. To be specific, the programme aims to help those with disabilities.

Most relief and rehabilitation efforts for the specially abled aim to achieve their objectives through prosthetics, necessary medication and narcotics as well as monetary support. The Enable Makeathon, in its second edition this year, wants to take things further and solve fundamental problems faced by those with locomotor, hearing and sight impairments.

The winning idea from Enable Makeathon’s first A chair from Mobility India for children with disabilities which is adaptable to size

The first edition of the initiative was quite successful, with 186 applications being filtered down to 32 teams, eventually leading to 15 prototypes. The competition resulted in 5 solutions being selected for the finals, and 3 grants being provided to the top three teams. Of these, the first prize went to Mobility India, a team that came up with an ‘off-the-shelf’ prefabricated twin device to help correct the posture of children with cerebral palsy. The design had customizable/adjustable features, hence, as the child grows up, the product is modified to suit him/her as well. The unique selling point of the device is that it can act as both a chair and a standing frame. It is cost effective and requires little storage space.

The other ideas that won included an add-on for a wheelchair that converted it into an outdoor mobility device as well as allowed it to be used in confined spaces, as well as a low-cost, energy-storing prosthetic foot with multi-axial capabilities that flexes to accommodate uneven terrain. Check out the winners below.

And even in this year’s edition, there is a diverse range of ideas. An interesting aspect of the ideas this time around is that they seem to include a fair share of services along with hardware ideas. For instance, the Chabla app from Chabla Oy is a service that wants to provide a live interpreter to a deaf person every time they make a call. But there are hardware focused ideas as well, like Saarthi, an add-on for a conventional walking stick that will alert the user about obstacles in front of them.

Perhaps the best aspect of this competition is the co-creation camp, which the selected teams attend. For Enable Makeathon 2.0, teams will attend the camp from December 6th to 20th in Bengaluru where they’ll work with people with disabilities to refine their designs further. Post that, teams also get to work with students from NID, international fabrication firms as well as industry professionals to understand how their idea can be improved upon before it is subjected to a user and market testing.

And if you think that this contest is just another in a horde of similar events, where the winners are gone and forgotten by the time the next edition arrives, you’d be quite distant from the reality. Winners of the first edition of the Makeathon, like Mobility India, have successfully tested their finished product with users.

Additionally, ICRC has also incorporated the ability for the general public to vote on the idea they like best this time around, and the result of these votes will be taken into account in the final decision. You can cast your own vote here.

The environment for innovation in India needs no explanation. In fact, ICRC is conducting the Makeathon parallelly in India as well as in the UK because of the scope of innovation that can be achieved here. And the fact that all the ideas are directed at helping solve issues related to disabilities and bringing specially abled people at par with the rest of us in terms of capabilities makes it all the more special.

Arnab Mukherjee

Arnab Mukherjee