Tech Bandits – Session One

Hello Tech Bandit Family, Patrons & Friendlies!

Well, that was WAY too much fun and over FAR too quickly?!  Session One has come and gone and it was wonderful!

Last week it was my pleasure to meet the 2020 Tech Bandits!  We immediately split into two groups dividing our time between Mr. “Video” Vida’s French Room… where we were hosting our “No-Hands” Minecraft Xbox… and the school library… which Mike “The Machine” had rearranged for optimal electric wheelchair road testing…

Adaptive Controller Testing at Microsoft

Half of our intrepid Tech Bandits took control of the XBox adaptive system… designed by Microsoft specifically to help people with disabilities to play video games and use Windows computers.  

One of our Bandits has kindly broken his collarbone for us (I believe?) and thus had his arm in a sling so was a perfect test case for our footpedal and micro-switch XBox gaming combination. 😉  Other Bandits tried trapping their hands in their sleeves to simulate a partial limb and when Bandits began defecting to the “easier” traditional handheld XBox controller… we agreed that a more productive solution was to lose our shoes and control them with socked toes instead!  We discovered that this method works best when the controller is locked into place, so we’ll have to see how best to accomplish that so as to avoid continually chasing our controller around the classroom! I’m also going to look into a wider selection of input switches, joysticks and possible configurations for this… so many possibilities!

Bandits Playing “no hands” Minecraft

Meanwhile back at the library… our other group of Bandits  took turns piloting the electric wheelchair through Mike’s “bibliotheque chicanes” … though they were sure to keep the mode set to “indoor” and the speed setting to low, despite much interest in the aptly named “Aggressive” mode!  The idea was to give our Bandits a sense of  what it’s like for people with disabilities to get around.  It was generally agreed that wheelchairs could be a lot of fun… which makes me think an enlightening test of this belief might be having them limited to ONLY using a wheelchair for a whole day!

Bandit Navigates bibliotheque chicanes in our Electric Wheelchair

For the last few minutes before the end of lunch bell, we all came together for a quick orientation and discussion… talking about  different types of disabilities and our upcoming field trip to McCordic School for kids with developmental and physical disabilities next week… speaking of which…

Pending some work-to-rule limitations, our fabulous principal Ms. Ellis and Mr. Vida have worked it out so that we can make it a real visit, not just lunch!  So we now have a couple of hours in the morning that will give our Bandits an opportunity to meet the spectacular staff and students at McCordic and see how they spend their days and get our Bandits thinking about possible projects to collaborate on!

There were a whole lot of questions and suggestions… a few of which really got me thinking…

McCordic’s Apartment “set” beginning to take shape!

– McCordic School has a brilliant project in the works…they are in the process of putting together a “training apartment” where their kids can learn and get a start at familiarizing themselves with the day to day skills needed for independent living  …This sparked a whole discussion about Virtual Reality and how that could be used, along with an real world apartment set to help kids with disabilities to gain the confidence and skills they need

This brilliant VR idea reminded me of a project done by King’s College Hospital in London aimed at reducing the anxiety for kids preparing to have MRI scans done… check it out!

There was also discussion about salvaging old switches and game controllers (of which I have many!) to create calming “fidget spinner”-esque sensory projects incorporating lights and different types of inputs and triggers to keep kids focused and relaxed… and as such, I may run into a Tech Bandit or two on my Geek Trash forrays on garbage nights in the hood… looking for cool old tech to autopsy, fix or repurpose!

Here’s the Roomba robo-vacuum that I told our Bandits about rescuing from the garbage on my very own street having a playdate with the wheel section of our electric wheelchair:


Turns out there is a lot of interest in tearing down the electric wheelchair… which BTW really needs a name!!? Ideas for repurposing it included creating a robotic helper for when “Machine” Mike gets too old and needs help carrying his groceries…I guess it’s too late for me!?  😉

One of many possible EZ-Robot arms

After realizing that preparing breakfast… initially thought to be “so easy”… could prove challenging for some people… there was much enthusiasm for using some of my EZ-Robot motors to engineer a simple robotic arm to help make breakfast or at least handle the spoon-feeding… of suitably sugary cereals, of course!
So we’ll be adding this great EZ-Robot project to the mix for sure!

And lastly there was a lot of questions about Brain Computer Interfaces…heady stuff!  I’ll be looking into wiring up my OpenBCI headset in the near future so we can see if there’s a way to try that out!   


Here’s a cool little video animation about all about BCI or neural interfaces:

So, as I said to start… a thoroughly amazing experience… certainly for me!
Please feel free to send comments, suggestions or questions my way… would love to hear what the Bandits have to say about things!
I am still looking to spread the word about donations to help investigate some of these ideas and fund projects and other STEAM inspirations… so if you or friends or family want to help out, it would be much appreciated!

Patreon is a US based website that allows creators, artists etc. to connect patrons and creators who pledge donations monthly to their favourite projects… please consider signing up and helping out…everything helps!

Can’t wait for next week!



Contagious Curiosity -> Inspired Learning
You can Follow our Tech Bandit Adventures on Twitter @dhewlett

Leave a Reply