Uvonne Andoh, Management of Aging Services
“3D Modeling for Older Adults”
Vision impairment and cognitive disabilities (such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia) are common within the older population. These problems create higher risks of disability among older adults and limits functional independence. We believe that providing older adults with the ability to design and build 3D prototypes has the potential to assist and support their everyday tasks and help them regain independence. Our team’s research goal is to examine how older adults use 3D printers and if they design and build their own objects right in their home without going out to buy them. The objective of my project is to design 3D models attached to a calendar that will assist older disabled adults with their daily schedule. By building various 3D objects representing biological, societal, interpersonal, creative and symbolic needs, we will enable older individuals to determine their day-to-day tasks. We are now preparing materials for a focus group with older adults to introduce these concepts.
What research have you been doing this summer?
I have been learning fundamentals of Assistive Technology and getting experience working with older adults. I have been learning how to design and build 3D prototypes for a 3D printer to explore the possibility of older adults building their own assistive technologies.
How did you find out about this opportunity? Was there a formal application process?
Last semester I was in an independent studies class doing research with my professor and advisor, Ms. Galina Madjaroff. Through this I met Dr. Amy Hurst who offered me a summer internship to do research with her.
Who did you work with on this project?
My supervisors are Dr. Hurst and UMBC undergraduate student Syed Rahman, a chemical engineering major.
Was this your first independent research project?
This is my second research project; my first research project was during the spring with Ms. Madjaroff and Dr. Shaun Kane on a touchscreen projector for older adults also known as Bonfire.
Do you get course credit for this work or get paid? How much time do you put into it?
I get paid during this summer project. This summer I am working on my project and do research over 30 hours a week which is Monday through Friday and sometimes Saturday.
What academic background did you have before you started?
I am majoring in Management in Aging Services alongside taking pre-physical therapy courses. The knowledge I have acquired over the past semesters about older helped me to understand the needs of the older population especially in using assistive technology and making them independent.
How did you learn what you needed to know to be successful in this summer project?
Dr. Hurst assisted me and gave me the necessary tools. If I had any questions she was more than willing to help. I also learned to use and care for the Makerbot tool for this project.
What has been the hardest part about your work this summer?
I believe the hardest part about my work was trying to come up with ideas and brainstorming potential projects to design and print to present to the older adults.
How does this research experience relate to your course work?
I am majoring in Aging Studies and the primary focus of this research is providing older adults with assistive technology. Already having some background knowledge of the older population made it easier for me to tackle this project.
What is your advice to other students about getting involved in research?
My advice is once you hear about a research opportunity take the initiative of getting involved. Don’t be shy and let an opportunity pass you by. Don’t wait for an opportunity to come to you; be willing to go after opportunities. Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can. There will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.
Being involved in research takes you far into your career and looks great on resume. It also helps you to network and meet people. I was nervous and shy doing research for the first time but I knew it would help me with my career. Not only has it given me the hands-on experience it has helped me to meet a lot of people.
What are your career goals?
I plan on doing my master’s in aging or a Master’s of Science in gerontology and going to a physical therapy school and/or a Ph.D. program. Hopefully one day I will own my own physical therapy practice and be able to travel all over the world to explain about the needs of older adults.
What else can you share?
I have enjoyed learning 3D modeling and how to use a 3D printer, preparing materials for a focus group with older adults on rapid prototyping and helping run a focus group. I have also enjoyed the assistance and direction of my supervisor Dr. Hurst and other students and working as a team. One of my favorite quotes is “Never let the hands that hold you, hold you down”. I am also a member of the African Student Association and planning on joining the pre-physical therapy club.