Nov 20, 2015 | By Benedict

A New York based gym teacher is raising funds to build a 3D printed prototype of a recreational device for disabled schoolchildren. The device is intended to facilitate sport and play, and can attach to a wheelchair and other apparatus.

Sports are a core element of school life. Most of us, for better or worse, will have vivid memories of our physical education lessons. They are unlike any other aspect of education, and play a crucial role in a student’s physical and mental development. Unfortunately, for some children, the prospect of taking part in gym classes remains near impossible. Despite the increasing efforts of school boards, councils and governments, disabled students are still restricted to a limited number of sports and games in which they can partake. Elementary school gym teacher Joe Kabes, from Webster, New York, has seen increasing numbers of disabled students at his school in the past few years. Seeing their exclusion from physical activities, the teacher decided that something had to be done to fix the problem.

After two months of relentless measuring, bending and tinkering in his garage, Kabes finally had a solution. Using materials bought at the Home Depot, the passionate gym teacher created The Overcomer, a unique recreation device which enables disabled children to better engage with bowling, soccer and other physical activities. The innovative device can connect to a wheelchair, braces, walker or gate trainer, and has seven different attachments for various sports.

Kabes has no background in inventing, but is familiar with the potential and limitations of the human body. ”In physical education, when there's individuals in wheelchairs and things like that, it presents challenges trying to have them be as included as the general population," Kabes said. “Most individuals take for granted the ability to kick a soccer ball or to dribble a basketball.”

The amateur inventor spent 11 years as a personal trainer, before taking his talents to the education sector. Although he takes enormous satisfaction from his present employment, Kabes is aware that an elementary school teacher’s salary will not finance his ambitious project. "I am a physical educator and personal trainer by trade, so my area of expertise is in how to physically train the body, not mechanical engineering," Kabes said. "This venture and starting a business has taken me out of my comfort zone to say the least.”

In order to generate funds for The Overcomer, the gym teacher has started a GoFundMe campaign. Kabes has set a target of $30,000, to pay for a patent, attorney fees and a 3D print of his prototype. If everything goes smoothly, he plans to use the remaining funds to mass produce the first run of devices.

Luckily for Kabes, help is at hand regarding the 3D printing of a prototype, as engineering professor Denis Cormier from the Rochester Institute of Technology has weighed in with some sound advice. Cormier has advised Kabes to produce a 3D printed prototype of his device, to ensure proper fit, strength and aesthetics. The professor has also waxed lyrical about the potential of 3D printed prototypes to attract investors. Impressing investors with words is one thing, "but if you have a 3D prototype that you can show people and demonstrate the utility of it, that's much more convincing,” Cormier explained.

Kabes’ intention is to make The Overcomer out of the same plastic used by Little Tikes for their children’s play products. The inventor hopes to sell his product to school districts, physical therapy units and hospitals. After taking the device to the New York Games for the Physically Challenged in Brockport in October, Kabes received much encouragement. "There seems to be a lot of interest in the product," said Susan Maxwell, director of the games.

Kabes has already raised 25% of his target goal, with 67 donators supporting the project. We hope he hits the target and can bring the 3D printed prototype to fruition.



Posted in 3D Printing Application



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