A student from Davie, Florida, who invented a specialized car seat for children with autism, has won this year’s annual ADI ‘Make the Change Challenge’ STEM accessible design content.
The competition, now in its third year, drew 227 exceptional entries from students across North America.
But it was the invention by Naomi Ghitelman from the Posnack School that won the $1,000 grand prize donated by the Avraham and Esther Klein Young Entrepreneurs Fund.
The competition, which promotes “selfless STEM” – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – is run by ADI, an Israeli network of specialized rehabilitative care for those touched by and living with disability.
ADI centers, located in Jerusalem and the Negev, provide their residents and special education students with the individualized growth plans and specialized services they need to grow and thrive. ADI’s rehabilitation patients are also provided with the treatments and therapies they need to heal and return to their lives, and the community at large with tangible opportunities for encountering disability, raising awareness and promoting acceptance.
The competition is held annually to mark Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (#JDAIM) to encourage students to create new devices and improve existing ones to help people with disabilities overcome the challenges that hinder their independence and inclusion.
Ghitelman’s ‘Massaging Car Seat,’ is an adapted comfort and communication focused car safety seat for children on the Autism Spectrum.
Inspired by a neighbor with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), for whom car trips are a nightmare, Ghitelman envisioned a car seat that includes several sets of rollers and airbags to massage and physically stimulate scared and restless children, while also piping in calming music through a specially stabilized headrest. An integrated tablet is attached with a simplified interface that allows the child to communicate his or her needs to the driver, as well as play games independently.
Instead of developing prototypes, contest entrants were asked to prepare compelling presentations that clearly explain how the original solutions they are envisioning would solve the persistent accessibility issues they choose to tackle. Ghitelman drew a complex sketch that brought her idea to life.
“It made me sad to hear how difficult it is for my neighbor to go on long car rides. He is always annoyed and uncomfortable in the car, so I wanted to create a car seat that would be so calming and comfortable that he would want to stay in the car forever,” Ghitelman explained in her contest entry. “This design can help so many children, and I hope that a car seat company who can actually create it will take notice.”
“Our ‘ADI Bechinuch’ (‘ADI in Education’) disability inclusion programming has become a staple in classrooms across North America,” said Elie Klein, ADI’s Director of Development for the US and Canada. “It is particularly gratifying to see that so many of our partners, including the Posnack School, the Ramaz School in NYC and the Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School in Baltimore, have made the contest a central component of their STEM curriculums.”
More than 30 Jewish schools across North America – including many affiliated with JNF-USA – utilized the ‘ADI Bechinuch’ curriculum this year, employing the in-class activities, virtual tours and STEM contest to encourage the next generation of Jewish leaders to see the world through the eyes of others.