Swinburne Design News

Inaugural TOM @ University Launches at Swinburne

Belinda Stening Contributing Editor

31 August 2018

This article was originally published in Swinburne University of Technology’s Design News – a platform celebrating design and innovation across Swinburne’s School of Design. Discover the latest design news about Swinburne’s research, teaching and student success stories.

In a new initiative, Tikkun Olam Makers and Swinburne have begun a first of its kind TOM @ University. The program launched on 3 August, and involves a two-stage process, using Design Factory Melbourne and Engineering Practice Academy capability.

Tikkun Olam Makers or TOM is a global movement of innovators dedicated to creating affordable solutions for the needs of people with disabilities worldwide. Established in 2014, TOM is a strategic initiative of the NGO, Reut Group, based in Tel Aviv, Israel.

TOM brings together makers, engineers, designers and innovators and solves problems with ‘Need-Knowers’, people with a deep understanding of a specific disability challenge. In this way, affordable solutions for real-life challenges are developed. TOM and Swinburne hosted successful TOM Makeathons in 2016 and 2017.

Students working with Need Knowers at TOM @ University

Photo: TOM Melbourne 

TOM @ University combines the TOM process with teams of makers and Need-Knowers, with interdisciplinary, human-centred design and engineering curriculums. Design Factory Melbourne and the newly established Engineering Practice Academy will partner with TOM @ University to deliver the first iteration of the project.

Need Knowers and students sharing problems and ideas at TOM @ Melbourne

Photo: TOM Melbourne

During the first twelve weeks of the project, Master of Occupational Therapy students will work alongside design honours and masters students studying at the Design Factory Melbourne. The final ideas from the Design Factory Melbourne program will be open source, documented and presented as design demonstrators or working models, with a focus on the value these design solutions provide to users.  

Swinburne’s Engineering Practice Academy for undergraduate engineering students is partnering on the second phase of TOM @ University to further develop four to five ideas to a more tangible outcome in 2019.

Need Knower and students working together at TOM @ University 

Photo: TOM Melbourne 

Vision AustraliaScope and Solve Disabilities Solutions represent the Need Knower groups participating in the program. Some participants were involved in the TOM Makeathons at Swinburne. There are eight challenges that Need Knowers and the students will respond to.

One Need Knower from 2016 and 2017 Makeathons is a quadruple amputee with prosthetic arms and legs. Her challenge for TOM @ University is based around her wheelchair. When she uses her wheelchair in a garden or on dirt roads, her husband needs to clean all six wheels manually with a brush.

This task is difficult without support. She’d like to create a wheelchair docking station, like a car wash, where you roll in the wheelchair, and the wheels are cleaned.

Measuring walking aid at TOM @ University

Photo: TOM Melbourne 

Another Need Knower is a Communication Access Assessor at Scope. In 1985 he suffered from an acute asthma attack, causing an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) as well as Action Myoclonus.

His ABI has impacted his speech and mobility. He finds it very difficult to put on compression support stockings without assistance and needs a way to assist him to do this.

Students will collaborate with Need Knowers in multidisciplinary teams of up to five people to unpack each problem, then co-create and design interventions through prototyping. As per TOM guidelines, each prototype must be a low-cost solution, capable of being made from readily available materials. 

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