Annual Occupational Therapy Expo showcases student innovation

Students hold pieces of a climbing wall they made for a project
M.S.O.T. students Morgan Potvin, Katie Willer, and Kolby Woods hold a climbing wall they made for children at Gallant Therapy Services.

Students, faculty, professional staff, and members of the community gathered virtually on Thursday, April 15, for the University of New England Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (M.S.O.T) program’s annual Adaptive Projects Expo.

Sponsored by the University of New England’s Occupational Therapy program, the annual exposition highlights evidence-based interventions for children and families and showcases the creative adaptive work of the University’s occupational therapy (OT) students.

The event, held prior in Innovation Hall on the University’s Portland Campus, took place on Zoom for the second year in a row due to COVID-19 pandemic. However, there was no short of comradery as students in the Class of 2022 presented their projects to each other, their professors, local OT practitioners, family, alumni, and the community.

The adaptive projects are designed to assist children and other clients in their everyday occupational engagement. Such projects included sensory boards, lap pads, interactive instruction tools, cookbooks, games, and more, and they will go on to be used by clients and centers, including Off2Play Therapy Services, Maine LEND Clients, StoreySmith Pediatric Center, and Gallant Therapy Services.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, students have had to demonstrate creativity and ingenuity to fill needs for children and youth within the community, both near and far,” said Elizabeth Crampsey, Ed.D, M.S., OTR/L, BCPR, associate clinical professor of occupational therapy. “In many ways, this is what they will do when they become practicing occupational therapists: innovate to holistically meet the needs of clients and their families.”

One team of students, Micaela Busack and Julie Hsieh, drew on their previous experience as competitive swimmers and swim instructors to develop swimming aids for children with lower extremity differences. Together, they developed a device that can be positioned on the children to help them stay afloat, and they also created a “mermaid tail” that keeps the children’s legs together, making it easier for them to swim.

“No child wants to have to use special equipment, so we wanted it to be something that they would be excited about using and that they wouldn't feel was really stigmatizing,” said Busack. “I think one of the coolest things about occupational therapy is how innovative and creative it is, and have the opportunity as a student to make something that will actually be used by somebody is a really valuable experience.”

Morgan Potvin, Katie Willer, and Kolby Woods set out to create something grand for the children at Gallant Therapy Services, an organization that works with children and adults with developmental delays, intellectual and developmental disabilities, and ASD.

The center wanted a climbing wall, and so the group of built one from scratch. Complete with multicolor hand grips and other activities, the wall helps engage patients’ fine motor skills, dexterity, and cognitive abilities.

“It was fun to create something that the facility actually wanted, and it was great to make connections with partners outside of school,” said Potvin.

Willer, who wants to work with children after graduation, said the same.

“Knowing that you're making something for little ones is fun,” she said. “I was really lucky to have a great group of students to work with who were all were really passionate about the project.”

Watch the full Expo

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