Mobile Makerspace Concept for Hospitalized, Chronically Ill Patients Is Officially On the Move

What started as a vision to use a mobile makerspace as a tool to inspire young, chronically ill patients to learn, create and innovate – and help make lengthy hospital stays more palatable – is now becoming a reality, thanks to the generous support of Sheri Sobrato Brisson, a long-time supporter of seriously and chronically ill children, and collaboration with several Fogarty Institute entrepreneurs.

Gokul Krishnan, Ph.D., the brains behind the “Maker Therapy” concept, initially used a variety of platforms equipped with higher-end technologies that suit both large-scale collaborative projects and smaller “pop-up” makerspaces. The goal of the Maker Therapy is to provide a creative innovation space that stimulates the minds of the young patients, as well as offering a therapeutic and collaborative environment to promote healing and well-being with social, emotional and intellectual benefits. The activities also encourage involvement from the patients’ family – particularly important as a way to engage siblings and improve morale.

After successfully introducing the Maker Therapy concept through the world’s first family-centered space at the Ronald McDonald House Stanford, a pop-up makerspace in the Cancer Ward for Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, and a makerspace at the teen lounge at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford; Gokul was ready to advance the project by establishing a mobile makerspace program and design that could be brought into young patients’ rooms in hospitals around the country.

Refining the design for broad appeal

A visit to the Fogarty Institute in 2018 to discuss the Maker Therapy concept inspired participation by entrepreneurs from the Fogarty Institute, including the Radial Medical team who have been strong proponents of the project. They became mentors to Gokul and helped develop a creative design and initial prototype that could be used in a variety of hospital settings and meet the needs of facilities, while appealing to young patients of different ages, especially isolated, chronically ill children.

“Our goal has been to have Maker Therapy become an integral part of the hospitals, and to do so it had to meet a wide variety of criteria. It had to be simple to integrate into their workflow and adaptable to different spaces, while being easy to sanitize and transport. And of course, it had to be visually inviting to get kids excited to use it,” says Gokul. “The Fogarty team created a few different designs, and we picked the most creative, interesting and effective design.”

The result was the “maker egg,” which flaunts a modern, futuristic space look, and that can be easily tailored to the specific needs of hospitals and the patients served. The self-powered egg is clear, so the kids can see all their tools, which are easily accessible, and the exterior will be easy to clean and sanitize.

Gokul, in collaboration with clinicians and child-life specialists at various hospitals, plans to develop a framework and modules for learning that hospitals can easily adapt and track. Kids are invited to improvise their own project or use the suggested activities.

“Hospitals are looking for new and unique ways to engage teens,” said Sheri. “Providing them the opportunity to benefit from the makerspace ‘revolution’ and use their imaginations to create and innovate is very exciting.”

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