Sara’s Glove Brief

Wearable and Soft Interactions
Spring 2016
Instructor: Lara Grant

Sara’s Glove

Sara is an 11-year-old young lady with cerebral palsy, due to this, she has trouble communicating and would like to explore the possibility of a wearable device that assists her to “speak”. She can understand when people speak to her, but cannot formulate words.  Her fine motor skills are very weak in her fingers. She loves to draw and to write, but in order for her to do so, she needs assistance gripping the pencil.

We have been approached to design a wearable device or soft interface to help Sara with some of her goals. This is in partnership with Dr. Cortney Bolden, Cortney teaches mechatronics course at American Public University and works with Sara through the non-profit organization Safe Passages. The below information is compiled from correspondence over the potential of the project, Sara’s needs and her physical abilities/limitations.

Challenge in a nutshell:

Design a wearable device or a soft interface that empowers Sara with the ability to “speak” using her intentional movements. Use sound bites of words and/or phrases that encapsulate Sara’s needs. Gather data and design by speaking with and observing Sara and her family.

You have 12 weeks for this assignment.

Notes on Sara’s needs:

Sara said she would like to  be able to do the following things.

1)      Handwriting

2)      Painting

3)      Wave hi and bye

4)      Give a thumbs up

5)      Point when she needs to be suctioned

6)      Point at other things

Handwriting and painting are top of the list at 1. and 2., this is being worked on already using a Kinect as part of Cortney’s efforts through Safe Passages. The idea is to map her movements to writing and painting on a screen. A wearable glove or another device has been pointed out as being good for communicating the items 3. to 6.

However, if a wearable or another soft device can be designed to help her write and paint, this is also on the table!

Notes on Sara’s physical abilities:

Although Sara has random moments of uncontrollable movements, she actually has some finger and hand control. She has been observed to tap once or twice for yes and no. She also has certain gestures for when her stomach is bothering her or bathroom breaks. Sara’s touch is very light and she has a difficult time applying pressure. It has been said that she even has a hard time pressing on an iPad to trigger sounds and other actions. 

When Sara writes, she normally has a pencil in her hand and she is able to definitively write certain letters.  Courtney has wondered if there may be a way to get the glove to hold the pencil for Sara.  She cannot grip the pencil herself.  Her mom grips it for her.

Sara and her mother will be sending videos that address her abilities to gesture and point. For now, here are videos that focus on her writing abilities. From these, you can still get a feel for Sara’s setup and some of her movements and the challenges that she faces.

A video of her mom providing a summary of Sara’s controllability:

A video of her with mom providing wrist support:

Here is a video of hand-over-hand support:

Sara is also an honorary member of one of the Safe Passage robotics teams.

One of Sara’s paintings.

You can learn more about her journey here:


Sara and her family live in New Jersey, all observations and conversations will be done through live and pre-recorded video.

Students will work in teams of 3. Each team will design one device and create 3 prototypes.

2) Over the course of this assignment, these 3 prototypes will be shipped by the below deadlines. All teams must hit all three deadlines.

3) Each prototype must be well documented, this includes pictures and videos (when necessary) of the process.

4) Before shipping out, each team must come up with questions that accompany the prototype for Sara and her family to address. This leads to each team needing to have clear goals for each prototype and uses the limited time we have with Sara to it’s fullest.

5) The final prototype must utilize soft circuitry and building techniques learned in class.

Sara will choose the device(s) she prefers in the end, this glove will be hers to have and to further develop through Safe Passages.

Shipment Dates:

1st Prototype – Feb. 12th 4pm

2nd Prototype – Feb. 26th 4pm

3rd Prototype – Mar. 11th 4pm