TINTON FALLS, N.J. – October 20, 2023 – Students at Trinity Hall, an all-girls high school in Tinton Falls, recently completed an engineering project where they designed functioning adaptive video game controllers for children with physical limitations. Deriving their designs from real-life accessibility challenges that children face, the students created and coded tactile devices to engage children with physical disabilities in a way that promotes equity, socialization and enjoyment.
The students started the assignment by researching and selecting real child personas through analogous simulation with a variety of physical limitations such as juvenile arthritis and quadriplegia. Using foam board, wood, spring, conductive metal sheets and paint, the students constructed controllers that adapted to the physical limitations of their target audience. These controllers ranged from foot- or head-operated devices to those that prioritized size and shape for enhanced usability. They then coded their devices using Arduino-like technology to connect to popular computer games such as Tetris, Snake and Roblox.
Trinity Hall senior Jacqueline Pena Gomez explains, “The value inclusivity has in our society is greatly valued in the Trinity Hall community, therefore being able to participate in a challenge where I had the opportunity to develop an inclusive gaming controller for children with physical limitations was an eye-opening experience to the many struggles young children face. My engineering partner and I developed a gaming device that is universally accessible for children who have juvenile arthritis. We were able to successfully complete various trials of our device and receive positive feedback from students utilizing our device.”
Trinity Hall STEM faculty member Kali Lambrou incorporated the project into the senior engineering curriculum. “Human-centered design principles, especially evoking empathy when developing a design, underpin every project in the Trinity Hall engineering program. Designing an adaptive game controller for a child with a physical disability allowed the students to think outside the box about the meaning of video gameplay and the impact of its accessibility. Their design thinking was challenged by having to make design decisions that grapple with the balance between universal design and personalized manufacturing. The unique nature of the prototypes also created opportunities for wiring circuitry that pushed their understanding of the functionality and consistency of controllers, since some solutions included headgear and 3D printed components. After all the gameplay, the lasting effects of this project are profound and transformative, empowering each student with the confidence to break down barriers, facilitate engagement, and enrich the lives of all individuals, regardless of their abilities.”
At Trinity Hall, students are required to take four years of engineering. The engineering curriculum encourages students to explore engineering concepts and design through a student-centered, inquiry-based approach. The senior-level engineering class focuses on the innovative nature of modern manufacturing, product design, robotics and automation. As a next step, these seniors will code their own video game to complement their current project and put their innovative gaming controllers to practical use.