Mission to Engineer was founded by ATMAkers and Penn Robotics in 2017, all thanks to a family in need of assistive technology. The primary goal of ATMakes was to introduce those in need of Assistive Technology to local makers that would be willing to execute the project that needed to be done for the families in need. Prior to Mission to Engineer, Penn Robotics was one of the facilities that accepted the offer to help a family in need -the Hunt Family. Bill Binko, founder of ATMakers, first introduced Penn Robotics to the Hunt Family with very high expectations for the future. Upon their introduction, Team 135 was able to learn more about the diagnosis of Ella Hunt and the ways that they would be able to help.

Ella is diagnosed with SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy)Type 1, a disease that prohibits her from developing muscle. Unfortunately, this diagnosis means that Ella is incapable of moving on her own, including the movement of her vocal cords. Although Ella is incapable of traditional speech, she is capable of communication with the use of an amplification device called the Eye Gaze. She struggles to express herself with her peers due to the challenges imposed by her condition.

Team 135 states that, “We are trying to improve the quality of her life by developing technological solutions to everyday problems that people overlook, the ways of communication and entertainment. Not only are we trying to improve Ella’s life, but we are trying to further fellow students’ understanding of engineering in the real world.” Shortly after Team 135’s initial greet with Ella and her family, they began the project known as Engineering Ella. This project has been featured on multiple different websites, including Bill Binko’s ATMakers, and Adafruit and is still recognized as the project that started it all. Our objective is to share Ella’s story and to help provide other families with thesupport they deserve.

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Engineering Ella

On June 2nd 2017, a group of five team members ventured to Mrs. Hunt’s house to visit their prospective project; a young girl with Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1. At first, Team 135 was unsure of how we would be able to help this young girl become more equipped by herself. Thanks to nonprofit groups such as ATMakers, we were able to learn the challenges this little girl has to face on an everyday bases. Spinal Muscular Atrophy Type 1 prohibits her from developing muscle, meaning she is incapable of moving on her own, even speaking. Although she is incapable of traditional speak, she’s still if able to communicate with the use of an amplification device called the Eye Gaze. Due to this lack of communication, she struggles to express herself with her peers. We are trying to improve the quality of her life by developing technological solutions to everyday problems that people overlook, such as our ways of communication and entertainment. Our first objectives were to improve the power chair, make more finger sensor holders, and prototype new versions of her arm chair stabilizers. All of these projects were definitely attainable and a great start to the new year.

Upon our first consultation, Team 135 learned many things not only about this little girl, but about her family and their lifestyles. We arrived to the Hunt’s house and entered through the garage, upon which we went directly to their cleaning room to disinfect our things. This neat room was equipped with all the primary cleaning supplies, and even some new gadgets that we hadn’t seen before; a phone sanitizing box. We swiftly cleaned our things and walked into the room to personally meet this little girl. She was laying on a table watching her favorite youtuber, Ethan Gamer, intently watching him in awe. As she was watching this young youtuber, we discussed with her mom about future improvements. We also showed her the devices that we finished. For example, the mounts for her buttons that she uses to drive her chair. Another improvement was a new program that enabled her to drive her chair more reliably.

Her name is Ella, and Team 135 is helping Engineer Ella to find her strength.