A team of Corning Community College students are the proud innovators of GripM8, a new device destined to help people maintain independent lifestyles for as long as possible. The prototype was submitted to the New York State Department of Health’s Aging Innovation Challenge this week, a contest seeking breakthrough solutions in independent living for senior adults and their caregivers.
GripM8 (pronounced Grip Mate) is a portable, hand-held device with several slots that can hold eating utensils. The device works with silverware that individuals already have at home. The GripM8 is a semi-malleable knob with multiple slots running through the center of the device. Forks, spoons, and knives can be inserted through the device, enabling users to get a better grip on the utensil. This device will allow users with motor control deprivation better flexibility to feed themselves more efficiently and improve independence with daily living skills.
“We thought about the different categories – eating, bathing, dressing – that were outlined in the proposal and decided that eating is one of the most important life functions we do,” said team member Samantha Orr. “People who have difficulty holding silverware can insert utensils into the GripM8 at the most convenient angle. This tool has the opportunity to improve a person’s overall mental state because when people can feed themselves, they feel more independent. That’s a huge need for the aging population. They need to feel independent.”
The student team used a 3D printer to produce the prototype for submission. They tested various shapes and internal structures before selecting the final design, choosing it for functionality, density of the internal structure, its elasticity, and ergonomics.
“This process of manufacturing will allow for the creation of customizable devices that would be prohibitively expensive to produce by other means,” said team member Christopher Herrmann. “Combined with innovative new materials, such as highly elastic and food-safe filaments, we can create an easy-to-use adaptation to silverware, allowing older adults to maintain independence and to stay in their homes for as long as possible.”
While there are other products on the market that assist people with eating, GripM8 is unique in that it is low-cost, customizable, multi-use, and can be produced at home.
“The design for GripM8 will be available online as open source,” said Dr. Sri Kamesh Narasimhan, one of the faculty advisors to the team. “Access to 3D printers is becoming increasingly common. Often public libraries have printers that people can use. With our students’ blueprints, people can make their own GripM8.”
Team members and advisors: (Front, L to R): Christopher Herrmann, Anna Leonard, Bridget Von Bevern. (Back, L to R): Advisor Rosemary Anthony, Samantha Orr, Advisor Dr. Sri Kamesh Narasimhan , Stephen Epp.