Fixperts is a learning programme that challenges young people to use their imagination and skills to create ingenious solutions to everyday problems for a real person. In the process they develop a host of valuable transferable skills from prototyping to collaboration.
Winner of the Future Makers Award 2016
and the Helen Hamlyn Award from the RCA London 2016
also featured on
A Pen Holder for Donal
At the age of 16 Donal O’ Flynn suffered a severe injury that would change his life forever. Whilst playing rugby Donal collided with another player which left him paralysed from the neck down. As a result of his accident, Donal no longer has the use of his legs and has very minimal movement in his arms. One of his biggest problems is that he cannot grip with his hands, which makes everyday tasks very difficult for him.
Identifying the Problem
From the problems that Donal brought to our attention, none seemed more important to him as being unable to write. Despite the odds Donal is a very independent man and due to his occupation, he is required to sign many legal documents on a weekly basis, but for many years Donal has had no way of achieving this task. He explained his frustration of having to ask family members to sign his signature on his behalf as his own signature is not considered fully legal because of its inconsistency. We quickly realised that finding a solution to this problem would not only benefit his business but it would also positively impact his every day life and help him gain more independence.
With this information, we began our brainstorming process. One of our biggest setbacks was trying to imagine what it would be like to have little or no grip and put ourselves in Donal’s position. To try to simulate this we used different materials to bind and restrict our hands in different ways to weaken our grip. The exercises enabled us to somewhat replicate Donal’s level of grip strength which allowed us to make accurate designs and ideas.
After making many prototypes of different shapes and sizes from low-density foam, we arranged to meet Donal again. We showed him our idea and got him to test out the prototypes which worked very well and actually enabled him to use a pen to scribble on a page. We carefully noted his criticisms and feedback and by process of elimination Donal narrowed the prototypes down to a few which worked best and felt most comfortable to him. Donal also mentioned that it would be preferable that the design didn't stand out as an obvious writing aid and didn't draw attention to him. Delighted with this success and taking all advice on board we brought the prototypes back to the workshop and used the notes we took to improve the design further.
We used the strongest features of each prototype and merged them into two final prototypes which were made from a higher density foam to the first which gave the product more weight for Donal to hold. Again we arranged to meet Donal with our two refined prototypes. He tested both out and amazingly wrote “Thank You” on a page. The success shocked our team and Donal himself!
The Final Product
For our last visit to Donal we brought with us his new writing tool. The final product resembles a computer mouse that has been modified to Donal’s hand to make it easier to hold. Cut outs underneath allow Donal’s fingers to slot in, naturally mimicking his grip. The design blends seamlessly with other office gadgets and is virtually undetectable. Most importantly, the product works amazingly and has enabled Donal to write again. Something he told us that he hasn't done in over fifteen years! Because of the independence our design has given Donal, we decided to call the product “IndePEN” to which Donal agreed was a great name.
Laura Lowry, Sarah Madden, Alana McDonough, Maverick Andaloc, Nathan Joyce.