Students helping students

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Tetra Society helps the differently abled through engineering – and “gizmos”

Rikkeal Bohmann
Contributor

For the approximately 350 students with a disability who attend the University of Regina, there’s now one more group working to make sure it’s doable.

The Tetra Society, a non-profit North American organization that recognizes people with disabilities and tries to make their everyday lives more accessible, has formed a chapter at the U of R.

The U of R chapter will aid people with disabilities in overcoming these obstacles by creating customizable assistive devices, endearingly called ‘gizmos’, which would be hard for these students to access otherwise.

David deMontigny, the engineering professor leading the U of R chapter, sees this as an opportunity for students to get involved. The current society has five, strongly committed members and would love to welcome more.

“There is a definite need for a Tetra chapter in Regina,” DeMontigny said.

It can go both ways; the group can have either too many project requests and not enough volunteers to take them on, or too many volunteers with not enough projects for everyone to work on. Getting word out about the Tetra Society, for both people who want devices made and people looking to help design and build them, is key to helping as many people as possible.

Third-year engineering student Jag Singh got involved in the U of R Tetra Society in December. He is currently working on creating an electronic Easter egg hunt for kids who are visually impaired. The egg emits a kid-friendly tune, so they can use their ears instead of their eyes, allowing them to still take part in an Easter egg hunt.

Another project the society has taken on includes creating a basket for a wheelchair scooter to be used for grocery shopping, as someone in a wheelchair cannot easily push a normal shopping cart. The projects are all volunteer labour, while the costs to create them are covered by the person requesting the gizmo.

Damien Bolingbroke, an environmental engineering undergraduate, saw the Tetra Society as a good way to apply engineering skills to things that are useful. It allows him to use what he knows in a “purpose motivated” way. Bolingbroke emphasized that anyone who wants to get involved, not just students, is welcome to do so.

“The Tetra Society is a lot of fun,” he said. “And the resources are all out there.”

Bolingbroke hopes this society can open people’s eyes to the benefits these devices have and that more people will join so more projects can be taken on.

When asked about his future vision for the University of Regina chapter, deMontigny was very positive and clear on what he wished to see.

“I hope to see a core group of twenty students dedicated to building devices, made in a timely fashion and provid[ing] value for the people who request them. To raise awareness of the issues people with disabilities face.”

For more information on the Tetra Society, you can contact David deMontigny or visit tetrasociety.org.

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