Assistive Innovations Club launched upon absence of IDEATE competition

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Every year the SMCS juniors compete in the the SourceAmerica Imagine, Design, and Evaluate Assistive Technologies for Employment (IDEATE) competition, a project that uses robotics to help people with disabilities. SourceAmerica is a nonprofit organization that provides employment opportunities for people with disabilities through its collaboration with other agencies. The project was to contact local businesses who employ people with disabilities and develop assistive technology to help them in their tasks. 

This year, the competition was canceled. SMCS junior Chris Ramos, was still invested in the project and started the Assistive Innovations club. He hopes to promote STEM interest within the community through hands-on engineering projects and industry-level experiences. 

“I was inspired by the impact that we had on our clients,” Ramos said. “I thought the project was not only fun, but also had a meaningful impact on our community, so I wanted to continue the experience”.

Some sub-teams, the smaller teams that work together, are the mechanical, led by Rachel Zhang, software, led by Daniel Mathew, and social media, led by Snigdha Chelluri, as well as business mentor, Liz Attumali, who is a robotics Poolesville alumni. 

They are currently in the process of looking for sponsors in order to purchase the tools and supplies. 

SMCS junior Hannah Chen who is the business lead for Assistive Innovations said that the competition was very successful and made her team want to continue the projects they started. Her job as the business lead is to obtain funding for the club by reaching out to businesses. They will then reach out to the community and find a project to benefit a person in Montgomery County free of charge, using the funds raised from the companies to write code and build what is requested. 

“We are planning to reach out to businesses that are receptive to our cause, such as engineering businesses to kick start our club,” Chen said.

They are also planning on applying for nonprofit grants in the near term future as another source of funding.

“The next step is community outreach,” Chen said. “Getting people who might be interested in a product and working with them, figuring out what they need and the best way to go about it.” 

Ramos says some long-term goals for the club would be to accumulate enough funds to start chapters in other schools to expand the influence of their non-profit. He hopes Poolesville students are interested in joining.

 ¨Our club can help our members develop their technical skills by having them apply their engineering skills in a real-world context,” Ramos said.