Conestoga news

February 28, 2021 3:56 PM

Students develop assistive devices for pitch competition

Second-year students in Conestoga’s Occupational Therapist Assistant & Physiotherapist Assistant (OTA & PTA) program developed assistive devices as part of a virtual pitch competition held February 11. 

Launched by Dianna Fong-Lee, OTA & PTA program coordinator, in collaboration with Rose Mastnak, director of the Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective (CEC), the Assistive Devices Pitch was the first of its kind held at the college.

“The OTA & PTA program has a long-standing tradition for this practical assignment dating back to the program's inception,” explained Fong-Lee. "The assignment is rooted in enabling participation and helping individuals to be independent. While students are always encouraged to take their ideas further, entrepreneurship requires networking beyond what health sciences faculty can offer. The CEC is Conestoga's very own in-house network, so they are the perfect catalyst needed to foster a shared interest between health care and entrepreneurship."

Using their understanding of health conditions, occupational performance components, activity analysis, grading and adaptation, students were challenged to modify, adapt, or create an assistive device to support individuals who have sensory or physical impairments that may affect their ability to engage in everyday activities of daily living. Projects included:  

  • Mascara applicator by Hilary Enns  
  • Standing bootjack and cane combo by Veronika Beerova  
  • Faucet handle extender by Rylee Clark  
  • Modified contact lens applicator by Jessica Hynes, Massouda Lulat and Nil Patel
  • Snip it nail care device by Adwoa Ampoma,  Mimoza Idrizaj Bala and Ayesha Sehrish

Students presented their projects to Christian Snyder, Kris Ronan and Uche Onuora of the CEC’s Venture Lab, who judged and scored the submissions. The winner, Hilary Enns, was awarded a cash prize donated by the CEC, and an invitation to join the CEC’s Gig Lab this spring.   

“Hilary provided a very articulate and compelling description of a common problem experienced by individuals with decreased dexterity and grip strength, and how the design features of her mascara applicator solve the problem,” added Fong-Lee.   

The Gig Lab will offer Enns the chance to be part of Canada's first business incubator for freelancers. Specifically tailored to address the business model nuances and needs of the growing number of freelance entrepreneurs, the program is designed to equip new and early-stage freelancers with the skills, mindsets and tools to flourish. Mastnak said Enns will be provided with 15 weeks of one-on-one coaching as well as a comprehensive road map to develop strategy, brand assets and an effective sales and marketing plan. 

Fong-Lee and Mastnak anticipate the assistive devices pitch will become an annual event. 

“Sometimes students generate assistive devices for family members or a patient they may have worked with in the past and don't think beyond it,” said Fong-Lee. “Now that we have connected with the CEC, students will be encouraged to consider the entrepreneurial value of their work.”  

Conestoga’s Occupational Therapist Assistant & Physiotherapist Assistant two-year diploma program is designed to prepare students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary to perform their role as OTAs and PTAs. The program integrates classroom theory with hands-on practical skills learning in living lab settings.  

The Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective empowers students and alumni to successfully participate in the Waterloo Region entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem by providing multiple pathways for engagement that include developing a new business, becoming a corporate innovator and providing support systems to the ecosystem. 

Applications for the next Gig Lab cohort open on March 1.