Makers Event Focused on Special Needs Expands to U.S. Universities

May 8, 2017
T.O.M. combines the strengths and experiences of people within a community to build solutions for individuals with disabilities.

Tikkun Olam, in Hebrew, has been interpreted to mean that peoples' positive actions can have a lasting impact that help repair the world. The concept has made its way into the makers’ movement through Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM). 

At TOM Makeathons, makers and developers work with need-knowers—persons with a deep understanding of a disability—to build prototypes that will help meet specific needs. Need-knowers can be disabled individuals or caregivers/OT/PT. The goal is to create prototypes where there is either no market interest or government capability due to prohibitive cost or rarity of condition.

After two and a half years, TOM currently has a presence in 11 countries, and has produced more than 200 prototypes. Through grants from the Jim Joseph Foundations, it’s expanding to high schools, universities, and colleges in the U.S. including UC Berkeley, Schechter Westchester, Chicago Northwestern, and the University of California, Irvine.

This spring, the movement finally made its way to New York City. Makers from tech businesses, maker circles, and local universities like Cornell worked with local need-knowers to build devices that would meet their primary needs. TOM:NYC took place at the Brooklyn Navy Yard’s New Lab, which offers manufacturing capabilities including 3d printers from MakerBot, CNC machines, and a wood shop, metal shop, and electronics/soldering lab.

“By this September, we hope to have full operations in New York City,” says Gidi Grinstein, Founder and President of Reut Group, which created TOM Global in 2014.

“We are committed to improving the lives of millions of people. The needs are there, the talent to address them is there, and so are the manufacturing capabilities. As for the projects created at TOM:NYC, they will go online so that other people at TOM around the world can continue to develop prototypes into actual products.”

Oded Shorer, head of TOM:NYC and a Tel Aviv native residing in Brooklyn shares similar aspirations for TOM. “One of the most important things about TOM is that people can take small actions performed at every event, and then scale them to help individuals in their local communities.” Shorer is a volunteer maker in his own time and runs an industrial design and product development studio in Tel Aviv and Brooklyn.

To learn about the projects presented at TOM:NYC, see the slideshow. 

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