Try this one: Attendees at the TOM Makeathon 48 Hour Challenge at Ballarat Technical School discuss their project. Photos: CAROL SAFFER

TOM makeathon makes life better

November 28, 2019 BY

NEED-KNOWERS, a new addition to the lexicon of innovation and challenge solving, was mentioned often at the TOM: Ballarat 48 Hour Makethon last weekend.

Makers Team Natalie working on a personalised daily schedule iPad app for Natalie to assist her with daily activities.

The word is TOM’s way of referring to a person with a disability, who is partnered with a team of makers, to solve a complex need and improve the need-knowers life.

Joanne Smith 47, who has a neurological degenerative muscular disease which limits her mobility in her arms and legs, said it was great to have the makeathon happening in her hometown.

“I am so happy at the thought of being able to independently put my shoes on,” she said.

Scott Weston, one of the volunteer makers on Team Joanne, said since being meeting Ms Smith three weeks ago, ideas for a solution to her need have been in the back of his mind.

“I see something that I think may work but I constantly find myself shooting down ideas,” he said. “All the team hope we have come up with a result and prototype by the end of Sunday.”

Barry Gibson, fellow Team Joanne colleague, said having Ms Smith at the makeathon at Ballarat Tech School over the weekend meant they had immediate feedback from her during the design process.

“She bought along her shoes and we were able to see that she favours one side much more than the other which is very important information,” he said.

Melbourne philanthropist Debbie Dadon AM established Tikkun Olam Makers, or TOM: Melbourne, in 2016.

Tikkun Olam is a Jewish concept defined by acts of kindness performed to perfect or repair the world.

TOM creates and build products that improve the lives of people with a disability, where there is no obvious or current solution in the market.

It focusses on making assistive technology more accessible and affordable for people with complex needs.

“We’ve seen so many people in our community benefit from when makers and need-knowers connect, it can really change lives,” Ms Dadon said. “To see the makeathon become a reality in Ballarat is simply wonderful.

“A design file is created for all the products that advance from prototype to finished product at these events.

“The file is open source so other need-knowers anywhere can benefit from an affordable accessible product.”

TOM Melbourne Director, Debbie Dadon with program ambassadors Mary Henley-Collopy and Stephen Groat.

Mary Henley-Collopy, a need-knower who is thalidomide effected, has first-hand experience with TOM.

She attended a TOM makeathon in February hoping for something to help her with aerobic and muscle strengthening exercise.

“I was upfront from the start with my maker team so I could establish a rapport with them,” she said. “I invited them to my home and gave them permission to ask questions without embarrassment or caution and permission for them to touch me.

“It was important for me to be able to give on the spot feedback to the team as this meant they were not working in a vacuum.”

Ms Henley-Collopy was asked by the organisation to take on the role of ambassador to represent other and potential need-knowers.

She and her partner Stephen Groat were very impressed with the volunteer’s collaborative attitudes and innovative thinking.

“This space here at the Tech School is amazing and the team members we’ve met are so enthusiastic and willing to help,” Mr Groat said.

Ms Henley-Collopy added, “It’s a classic example of regional communities working so well together.”