A team of students from The Dalles, Hood River, and Bingen involved in the national Project Invent competition have continued to improve their design, beating the odds for the issue they are helping solve.

As part of their goal to help a fellow Columbia High School student with cerebral palsy communicate with computers, the team has designed, built, and programmed several controller prototypes with accessibility in mind.

This year, the Project Invent team chose to focus on White Salmon student Jose Garcia, who lives with cerebral palsy. Based on information from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Cerebral palsy is a group of disorders that affect a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture.”

The group has developed rapport with Garcia and has continued to put in their best efforts to help him pursue his goals. Though the disease has changed Garcia’s life, it has not inhibited his happiness.

In the last five months, the team has been working on the project (named AdaptPlay for clarity), notable improvements have been made that will help its beneficiary succeed. Among these improvements are the addition of an accelerometer hat and refined joystick design that will allow the user to change direction and a button layout that will help the user interact with their interface.

In previous designs, the joystick has seen an almost complete revamp, going from analog components to purely digital ones.

“As our team continues to figure out design constraints, the group is getting closer and closer to fruition. With the presentation date approaching, we will need to focus on both our physical and verbal presentation in order to win the competition,” said group member and Columbia High School student Cesar Robles.

Over the span of five months, the team has begun to prepare for the annual Demo Day that Project Invent holds in the spring at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. The team is working to present to venture capitalists and engineers in order to help secure future funding and support for the project.

Through formulating business plans and generating product outlines, the team is arranging a powerful demonstration. The ultimate goal of the team, in addition to improving Jose’s ability to interact, is to help other individuals with similar conditions.

“We want to make this something that anyone else with cerebral palsy will want to use, not just Jose,” said team member and The Dalles resident Jacob Field.

Recently, the group traveled to Microsoft in Seattle to tour the adaptive gaming lab and demonstrate the product to Microsoft engineers.

Coming back from the tour, the group received a notable donation from the company: a new Xbox Adaptive Controller and product advice.

While the group has been working hard on the design end, they are also working on the financial aspects of the project. The team has developed a GoFundMe page to further assist with travel and design costs. It can be found here: https://www.gofundme.com/adaptplay-gaming-for-people-with-cerebral-palsy

Interested parties can contact project mentor and MakerSpace owner Jack Perrin at jack@gorgemakerspace.com for more information.

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