48 hours of innovation will produce a variety of new tools for those with special needs

Teams of makers will race the clock this weekend to create innovative solutions to the problems facing those living with disabilities in Nashville and beyond.


Beginning Friday, Jan. 18, at 3 p.m., these teams will have 48 hours to “make a difference” as part of Vanderbilt’s Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) makeathon.

The name Tikkun Olam, Hebrew for “repairing the world,” indicates the purpose of this worldwide effort to empower people living with disabilities through technology.

Each of this weekend’s projects is designed to fulfill a challenge submitted to TOM by or on behalf of those in need. In this way teams can assist with practical rather than theoretical needs. Vanderbilt student Nicholas Ormsby looks forward to leveraging his Vanderbilt Engineering education in helping his team create “specialized swimming equipment for the Nashville Dolphins, a local organization that empowers swimmers with special needs.” Other Vanderbilt projects include a wheelchair fit for rugby practice and a customizable app that could assist a child with autism in making decisions such as what to eat.

“The TOM:Vanderbilt makeathon is part of a growing global movement to ‘make’ with a purpose,” said Vanderbilt’s Director of Making Kevin Galloway. “The makeathon creates an environment for the sharing of information, expertise and technology, and at the end of the day, demonstrates that we all have the ability to make a difference in our community.”

2018 TOM: Vanderbilt makeathon (Vanderbilt)

Beginning at 2:45 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, teams will make brief presentations on their designs. “Our makers should leave with an immense sense of pride and excitement for the lives they have changed and the things they were able to create,” event organizer Bradley Schwartz said.

Teams will comprise students and professionals with varying degrees of experience, but participants are united in their desires to improve the lives of others. Software developer Teresa Vasquez is inspired by her son, who has autism. “Tech has been a huge part of his journey and I want to share this with others,” said Vasquez. “Disability should not exclude anyone from having the life they want for themselves.”

Due to last year’s success, this year’s event has received a $10,000 grant from The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee as well as additional funding from AstraZeneca.

Sunday’s unveiling event will be held in the lobby of Vanderbilt’s Engineering Science Building (2414 Highland Ave.) Click here for more information.