THINC: May 2021

THINC Continues to Adapt to Changing Times
by Denise Sullivan

HURLEYVILLE, May 2021 — After pivoting, improvising and answering many calls for assistance during the pandemic, it’s time to pause and review the past year’s innovations and activities at the Technology Hub and Incubator (THINC).

When the Center for Discovery (TCFD) closed its campuses and schools in response to the virus outbreak in March 2020, teachers and therapists of all kinds began creating new ways to connect with their students at home. The Digital Media Lab at THINC ramped up its instructional video production with Project Coordinator Julie Palmer at the helm. Countless videos for both staff and students were created at THINC, edited and uploaded to the TCFD network. The Recreation Team moved into THINC and created portable kits and games that could be delivered to residential houses, providing fun activities for the newly shut-in.

Personal protective equipment suddenly became essential to direct care staff members and essential workers everywhere. Short supply? No problem. The Assistive Technology Lab, steered by Mark McNamara, retooled and adapted to create sanitary production lines for clear face shields and cloth masks, joining a worldwide community of makers that united to get frontline healthcare workers the necessary protection they needed to stay safe while working. Jason Kean, Director of Innovation, helped secure a grant to pay for materials, and thousands of items were created and distributed.

TCFD leadership, weighing the decision to reopen campus schools in Fall of 2020, requested tabletop dividers and protective barriers for their classrooms. THINC answered the call. They built sturdy, adjustable equipment without having the luxury of testing it first, an essential step in the design/build process. Many of these still remain in program classrooms, while others will be deconstructed and repurposed for other projects.

Throughout the lockdown, the expected work in the creation of assistive devices and equipment continued at THINC, even if a bit more slowly. The universally designed FlexTable was refreshed in an effort to offer greater functionality, streamline in-house production and make the product more easily accessible for purchase. It’s available in new colors and sizes, waiting for its debut at in-person trade shows and expos. The Wrist Talker, an augmented and alternative communication device (AAC), was developed over the last year at THINC. The newest version uses a clip and is worn around the waist, attached to a belt or pocket. The Tool Grabber, a lightweight assistive device with an adjustable grip, is undergoing a second round of research and development due to supply – chain issues, a common problem in the manufacturing world right now.

It surely has been a productive year at THINC, with flexibility at the forefront of all projects and activity. Readers of the Sentinel and other publications have seen that a new school is coming to 202 Main Street in Hurleyville, the current home base of THINC. A new school is an exciting development for the hamlet, and the THINC superheroes of creative technology will demonstrate that innovation is not dependent on brick and mortar. Stay tuned for exciting news about the next pivot!