George Mason University
George Mason University Mason
George Mason University

Student Creates Bear-y Good Device for Special Needs Children

January 28, 2015   /   by Buzz McClain

Mason undergraduate Jade Garrett presents her bear device at Patriot Demo Day outside of the Mason Innovation Lab. Photo by Evan Cantwell

While many people get a warm, fuzzy feeling from helping others, senior Jade Garrett has created something warm and fuzzy that helps others, thanks to assistance from George Mason University’s entrepreneurial resources.

Garrett, an applied technology major, has invented a toy bear that doubles as a game controller for autistic children. The plush bear is easier for special-needs children to grasp than a regular controller and allows them to hold it for longer periods. Children with motor control issues find the buttons easier to use than a track ball or keyboard.

[Mason undergraduate Jade Garrett presents her bear device at Patriot Demo Day outside of the Mason Innovation Lab. Photo by Evan Cantwell]

Mason undergraduate Jade Garrett presents her bear device at Patriot Demo Day outside of the Mason Innovation Lab. Photo by Evan Cantwell

The Computer-Assisted Device Input Bear was brought to life this summer in the School of Business’ Innovation Lab. There, Garrett learned how to develop hardware from scratch and launch her own business. She’s been involved with the Lab for IT Entrepreneurship, as well, working with successful business owners who create products for individuals with special needs. George Mason faculty and staff also have helped her craft a business plan, identify a market, and conduct focus groups to hone her idea.

Garrett, president of Mason’s Inventors Club, says CADI has been received very well in the special education community. “Teachers tell me they can’t even use computers for the severely physically impaired, but this could improve outcomes for them, such as removing anxiety or fear while interacting with computers.”

So far, the single mother has spent $2,000 of her own money developing the prototype of CADI. She’s now working on a web application that will track and record user metrics, and generate reports showing mastery of skills.

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