It’s the height of summer in Reston, VA, and mosquitos and gnats meander through the fragrant humidity outside Nova Labs. The 90 degree heat isn’t a bother, though; energized teams of makers are inside, hard at work on prototypes for inventions for differently abled people — everything from a voice-activated elevator to an augmented reality program that visualizes sounds.
At a large table littered with sketches, laptops, beverages, and half-eaten snacks, three makers discuss how to construct a new prosthetic for Jordan Reeves, an 11-year-old who was born with limb difference (her left arm ends at the elbow).
Everyone in this room has gathered at Nova Labs for a 72-hour make-a-thon event organized by TOM-Global. TOM, which stands for Tikkun Olam Makers, is an Israeli company which organizes several of these make-a-thons around the world each year in an effort to develop open-source solutions to unmet societal needs.
For Reeves, that need has to do with paper towel dispensers — specifically, the kind that require two hands to operate effectively. She wants something light and portable that will allow her to rip off a paper towel easily. Watch the above video to see how the collaborative prototyping process happens.