Our next post was written by guest bloggers, The Brainstormers (FLL Team)

We are the Brainstormers, an independent FLL team from Massachusetts who have been competing in FIRST competitions for 4 years. We started as a group of friends who went to the same school and liked to build with LEGO bricks, and the team has escalated from there. We are team number 1263. We have 7 team members, 2 mascots (training to join the team when they turn 9) and a mentor.

For many young people it’s hard to imagine the effects of aging, and therefore difficult to accurately assess the specific challenges which face elders. So we decided to try and approach this issue from a different perspective. We studied potential difficulties and current resolutions and did research but decided that the only way to find the solution was to understand the problem. We needed to find a way to simulate the aging process. We talked to experts at the MIT Age Lab about this idea. It turns out they have had the same one themselves. They have designed a suit called AGNES or Age Gain Now Empathy System to help businesses design products better suited to the elderly. Unfortunately, their suit was too big for us so we decided to build our own based on the same principles.

The Ops Suit simulates aging by hindering many senses and the muscles. We use earplugs and tainted goggles to restrict hearing and sight. We also have exercise bands attached to a harness to lower the ease of mobility and rubber gloves to lower the skin sensitivity. Our shoes have foam on the bottom to make your steps more unsure. We also wrap joints with ace bandages to limit flexibility and wear a suit with our logo, which also makes movement difficult. People who we have talked to have expressed much interest in the suit, so we have decided to make its design and instructions on how to build it public on our website http://www.brainstormerskids.com, perhaps for other teams to try.

WHAT WE DID

After completing the OPS Suit, we decided to put it into action. We figured that by wearing it around while doing normal everyday things that seniors might do to assess the difficulties of everyday life and brainstorm possible solutions.
We tried shopping at CVS and at a grocery store, where we found it was difficult to reach high and low shelf items and carry a shopping basket. We went to the Post Office to ship a package and found it was hard to carry heavy items. We shopped at Target using a complimentary powered shopping cart, and found it was large and hard to maneuver. Even the process of getting in and out of a car takes tremendous effort. So we went to a medical supply shop to look at their selection of canes, walkers, and other mobility devices.
Through this process we have identified the problems we want to address and actively working on possible ways to solve them. To find out more about the project, see pictures and video about the OPS Suit and how to build it, plus more about our team, visit http://www.brainstormerskids.com/.

-The Brainstormers