Hampton students make adaptive glove to aid teacher

Monday, January 27, 2020 | 12:01 AM

Two high school students at Hampton have designed and built an assistive glove for a Hampton Middle School teacher who has very limited use of her arms and hands.

Dakota Basista, 15, and Danielle Sutterlin, 16, both sophomores, made a hand-aiding device for Beth Dolan, who, in 2006, was diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a rare, sudden-onset neurological disorder that caused inflammation in her spinal cord and left her a quadriplegic. The glove is designed to include a specialized clipboard and pen to help Dolan write.

The design was submitted in the SourceAmerica 2020 Design Challenge, a national engineering challenge for high school and college students tasking them to invent something that “focuses on scalable, replicable innovations with the potential to increase the economic mobility of people with disabilities.”

The students’ teacher, Ryan Scott, who teaches technology education at the high school, presented the design challenge to the students. The students sought out Dolan and asked her what she needed most. Dolan has been a teacher at Hampton since 1991.

The students and Dolan, who lives in Hampton, came up with the idea of an adaptive glove. They worked as a team, collaborating and brainstorming since October to come up with the best design. It was recently demonstrated in her classroom.

The students said it took a lot of fittings and redesigns to make it workable. Dolan was impressed with what the students accomplished. She said while she had a writing device, it was not as versatile or flexible.

Dolan said many people do not realize the limits of her being able to use her hands. Just being asked to hold or grab something is barely possible.

The fit of the glove is adapted to help her achieve optimal use of her hand, with the pen Velcroed on so she can write.

The students also put into thought how to make taking the glove on and off as easy as possible. And they designed a specialized clipboard that she can put paper in and write with the attached pen. When the students found that the Velcro they used to keep the clipboard in place was rough and could damage the furniture to which it was adhered, they smoothed it down.

Sutterlin and Basista both said it was a challenge on how to position the pen to make it work best and stay upright. Basista said they had to change the position of the pen multiple times.

“I hope to continue to make improvements on the glove for the foreseeable future until we cannot determine any other ways we can improve the design to work best for Mrs. Dolan,” Basista said.

In addition, Basista said the experience taught him more about working with people with disabilities and their everyday obstacles.

“Simple tasks like writing and eating are more difficult for Mrs. Dolan due to her paralysis, but she is also still able to achieve so much with her hard work. Working on this project definitely makes me want to help more people with disabilities to improve their everyday lives and allow them to require a bit less intense work to do that which we don’t think twice about,” Basista said.

Sutterlin said they would like to work on adding a special fabric that would allow Dolan to use her phone with the glove. She also learned a lot about the challenges a person with disabilities face.

“You have to really listen to what the person you’re trying to help is saying, and you have to keep coming up with innovative solutions to the problems that pop up every time you test a new prototype. You have to change the way you think to come up with solutions for unique problems. Mrs. Dolan is a great person and teacher, and I loved working with her to figure out a device to help her write,” Sutterlin said.

Now Dolan likes that she can use the clipboard when she teaches with her document camera and face the class while doing so. She can grade papers on her own, too.

This assistive glove brings her independence in her personal life, too.

The Hampton resident is taking a class at her church and she can take her own notes. Even just using the pen to turn a page makes it easier.

And recently she was able to play Scattergories “for the first time on my own team.”

“When you get in this situation, you are completely dependent on others,” Dolan said. “It’s one more piece of helping me be more independent, have more freedom, flexibility. And one more piece of independence is one more piece of my life back,” Dolan said.