In its second year, ADI’s ‘Make the Change Challenge’ STEM accessible design contest drew more than 180 brilliant entries from students across North America, but it was Lyla Faith, Gaby Faith, and Tamara Berner, an inventive group of 8th-grade students from Scheck Hillel Community School in Miami, Florida, who emerged victorious, claiming the contest’s $1,000 grand prize and successfully spotlighting the inaccessibility of our world and our communal responsibility to make a change.
Run by ADI, Israel’s most comprehensive provider of residential and rehabilitative care for individuals with severe disabilities, to mark Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (#JDAIM), the contest promotes “selfless STEM,” encouraging students to hack the modern world and create new devices and improve existing ones to help people with disabilities overcome the challenges that hinder their independence and inclusion.
Lyla, Gaby, and Tamara prevailed with an entry entitled “Shaquille O’ Wheel,” a reimagined basketball hoop that makes it easier for wheelchair basketball players and others to adjust the height of a basketball hoop by simply turning a wheel. While most hoops are raised and lowered using systems that require a significant amount of upper body strength or the capacity to reach levers and hydraulics at heights well over five feet, their contest entry envisions a coil within the pole that is controlled by an easy-to-use wheel at sitting height, empowering people of all abilities to be self-sufficient on the court.
“Our STEM contest has quickly become the crown jewel of our ‘ADI Bechinuch’ (‘ADI in Education’) disability inclusion programming, with students from our partner schools researching and developing original accessible design ideas from November through February. In fact, several partners, including Scheck Hillel and the Ramaz School in NYC, have made the contest a central component of their STEM curriculums,” said Elie Klein, ADI’s Director of Development for the US and Canada.
“Our in-class activities, virtual tours, and STEM contest encourage the next generation of Jewish leaders to be thoughtful, sympathetic and see the world through the eyes of others, and this talented trio’s game-changing design is proof that our young leaders are really connecting with our ADI Bechinuch programming, using their hearts and minds to consider the experiences of others.”
Instead of developing prototypes, contest entrants were asked to prepare compelling presentations that clearly explain how the original solutions they are envisaging would solve the persistent accessibility issues they choose to tackle. The Scheck Hillel students went the extra mile to create a digital rendering that brought their idea to life.
“We are all really passionate about basketball, and we wanted to make sure that everyone could enjoy playing basketball as much as we do. Obviously, the first step is making sure that players of all abilities can adjust the hoop to the desired height on their own,” the team explained in their submission video. “We plan on seeing this process through to the end by finding a manufacturer who produces basketball hoops and will agree to make our design a reality.”
Last Sunday, ADI’s panel of experts, including members of ADI’s professional staff, innovation journalists, and specialists in the field of accessible design, met with the top five finalists and their parents and teachers via Zoom to discuss the entries in greater detail. Following an uplifting discussion, the proceedings concluded with Lyla, Gaby, and Tamara being crowned the contest winners and presented with the $1,000 grand prize, a gift from the Avraham and Esther Klein Young Entrepreneurs Fund.
The “Final 5” also included entries from students at Donna Klein Jewish Academy in Boca Raton, FL; David Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, FL; Bialik Hebrew Day School in Toronto, Canada; and the Ramaz School in New York, NY.
“Though our ADI centers are located in Jerusalem and the Negev, our ADI Bechinuch programming allows us to promote disability inclusion, equity and access around the world, and do our part to ensure that every community has tangible opportunities for encountering disability, raising awareness and promoting acceptance,” added Klein.
“With ingenious innovations like the ‘Shaquille O’ Wheel,’ a baby monitor that alerts deaf parents to their child’s needs by shaking their mattress, ‘computer specs’ that help individuals with selective mutism navigate social situations, a wheelchair that emits a special plaster to fill a dangerous crack in the sidewalk, and a handheld system that allows a blind person to use a Braille slider to print a letter in the recognized ABCs, and many others, we are creating real awareness and encouraging a societal shift toward true inclusion.”
ADI cares for and empowers hundreds of Israel’s most vulnerable citizens – children, adolescents, and adults with severe disabilities – to advance well beyond their initial prognoses and live happy, dignified, and meaningful lives. ADI also provides the highest-level rehabilitative care for all and is laying the groundwork for the establishment of fully inclusive communities across the country.