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Board 21: Work in Progress: Project Tadpole - A Student-led Engineering Service Club

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2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 23, 2018

Start Date

June 23, 2018

End Date

July 27, 2018

Conference Session

Biomedical Division Poster Session

Tagged Division

Biomedical Engineering

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Paper Authors


Martin Li Duke University

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I am a Junior Biomedical and Electrical and Computer Engineering Student at Duke University. I am co-president of Project Tadpole, a service organization at Duke.

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Brianna Loomis Duke University

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I am a recent graduate of Duke University with majors in Biomedical Engineering and Electrical and Computer Engineering. I am co-president of a service organization at Duke called Project Tadpole which switch modifies toys for children with disabilities.

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Kevin Caves Duke University

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Kevin Caves is an Instructor in the Pratt School of Engineering at Duke University and a Clinical Associate in the Departments of Surgery and Medicine at Duke University Medical Center. He coordinates Duke’s Assistive Technology Clinic that provides assistive technology services to people with disabilities. In addition to teaching and working with people with disabilities, he conducts research in the area of rehabilitation engineering and assistive technology.

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Project Tadpole is a club at XXX that aims to make toys more available and accessible to children with disabilities by repairing broken specialty toys and modifying commercially available toys from local retailers. The club has weekly meetings and in the first few weeks of the semester, students learn and teach each other about basics of electronics, soldering, diagnosis, and repairing. As the semester progresses, those skills are then applied to fixing actual toys. Project Tadpole offers two types of services: the first is the repair of broken specialty toys. These toys are already made for the purpose of helping children with disabilities learn. These toys have features including voice recording so that children are more easily able to express themselves, and bigger buttons, so that the children can utilize them. We receive the toys, diagnose and fix them, and then send them back. The second is the modification of store bought toys. These toys are originally for regular use, but through switch modification, children with disabilities can also play with them. For these toys, students implement a battery interrupter into the toy, which is connected to an external button, that can be pressed for the functionality.

Through Project Tadpole, we aim to measure the impact of club involvement of students on their engineering knowledge as well as skills. As a work in progress, students aim to develop invaluable skills including: diagnosing, troubleshooting, repairing circuits, designing and building adaptations, soldering, desoldering, and using diagnostic equipment. These experiences serve to complement and reinforce theory learned in classrooms. In addition to learning practical technical skills, students are also challenged by hosting outreach events, such as toy fairs and education programs which can be helpful to both students and parents. We have conducted 10 events in the past 4 years where the parents and children can come get a new toy, and learn how to modify toys for themselves. Recently we have collaborated with Beta Box, a mobile makerspace which has enabled us to take the session to any location. The whole purpose of the club is to raise awareness for the types of issues children with disabilities can face, help the parents and children enjoy the toys and even make their own.

We determine the educational impact of Project Tadpole on students by surveying their skills and awareness when they join the club, and after each semester of involvement. We are developing a survey that we will administer at 3 points during the year. As we have started the semester, as will administer the first retrospectively,, the second two months in, and the third at the end of the year. Results will be used to gauge skills building and enable us to make modifications to our training program. The surveying is composed of two parts: looking at the tangible skills as well as attitude changes towards engineering. To survey the tangible skills, a lab practical is given to the students: items tested include the ability to solder on a circuit board and on a toy, diagnosing and fixing common issues with broken toys, developing “outside-the-box” solutions to fix toys with limited resources, explaining the usage and theory behind a battery interrupter, and mastering proficiency in the above categories to teach someone else the skills necessary to fix a toy. Surveying the opinions and attitude changes of students consists of a conversation with them discussing their increased awareness of challenges faced by children with disabilities, confidence when faced with an unknown circuit and/or situation, confidence in teaching others the skills they have learned, and the belief that they have deeper grasp with the fundamentals of engineering and problem solving.

Li, M., & Loomis, B., & Caves, K. (2018, June), Board 21: Work in Progress: Project Tadpole - A Student-led Engineering Service Club Paper presented at 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition , Salt Lake City, Utah. 10.18260/1-2--29984

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