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Assistive Devices

Casper Student inventor Anne Marie Casper was born September 26, 1981 in Poughkeepsie, New York. As a child, she was always extremely curious about the "hows and whys of everything." Today, at just 20 years of age, she has already begun to make her mark in the world of assistive technologies. Her advancements in the field include a device that would help an assistance dog to pull its owner's wheelchair and a dog leash that would require little motor control to use, allowing people with disabilities to control their dogs more easily.

Throughout elementary school Casper liked to come up with creative ideas for new vehicles and technologies, including flying cars, teleportation devices, and even space shuttles that could travel to distant planets in short amounts of time. She first had the idea of enabling a dog to pull a wheelchair when she was just seven years old after watching her mother, who has post-polio syndrome, use a wheelchair from time to time." I had to push her around whenever I wanted to go somewhere, and one day in the grocery store I had the great idea of getting a dog and tying it to the front of my mom's chair so it could pull her," she said.

Casper began working on a prototype for such a device in fall 2000, and though she is still working on the project, she has completed a second, improved version and hopes to take it to the commercialization stage in the future.

In addition, Casper has created a piece of equipment to modify the existing wheelchair mount for DynaVox communications systems that allows the system to function on a specific type of pediatric wheelchair." The solution itself was fairly simple, figuring out how the tubing had to be shaped so that it would work with parts of the existing mounting system and hold the communication device in the correct location," Casper said of her creation. She became involved with the project initially to help one of her mother's students (her mother is an occupational therapist).

Meanwhile, Casper has begun working on a number of other inventions, including a design for a better harness for dogs, which would provide balance and bracing assistance for ambulatory people. This project is still in the early planning stages. She is also in the later stages of prototype development of a leash that requires very little fine motor control to use. In addition, she has worked on a device that would allow organic farmers to control potato leafhopper infestations, as well as other insects with similar hopping behaviors. Two prototypes of this exist and have been tested to some extent.

Today (Feb. 2002), Casper is a student at Hampshire College in Amherst Massachusetts, studying Assistive Technology & Sustainable Technology design and Environmental Science. At Hampshire, in addition to her other projects, she is also in the early planning stages of a device to create adjustable height push handles for wheelchairs. In her spare time, Casper enjoys rock climbing, reading, horseback riding, akido, whitewater kayaking, drawing Celtic knotwork, hiking and playing the clarinet. She's also teaching herself how to play the mountain dulcimer.

[February 2002]

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