Congenital heart defects (CHD) are among the most common birth defects today. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, coronary artery disease occurs in approximately 40,000 births each year in the United States.
To help affected children and their families better understand their conditions, CRF architecture student and Tikkun Olam Makers (TOM) scholar Sophia Neves, together with volunteers from the CRF section of TOM Global and specialists in Child Life at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital (NCH) collaborated to develop and distribute 3D printed heart toys that were medically safe and fun!
Since fall 2020, they have been perfecting the toy to educate children and their families.
Using the more than 50 3D printers from FIU CARTA’s Miami Beach Urban Studios (MBUS) School of Architecture Innovation Lab, they created “Heart House” – a set comprising red components and blues that can be separated and put together. The toys are primarily intended for use as preschool and elementary toys to model the functions of the real human heart.
The sets are color-coordinated to show oxygenated and deoxygenated blood flowing through the heart, with “chambers” separated by “gates” representing the heart valves. By inserting open doors, the child life specialist can explain how a particular CHD affects the child’s heart.
“Meeting and working with the team at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital was a very different yet rewarding design experience for me,” said Kanisha Fowell, architecture student and social media coordinator. “As an architecture student, we always design for people. However, this opportunity required design on a much smaller scale.
“Seeing the Nicklaus team with Regine Duret, Elizabeth Fitzgibbons and Maria Gabriela Maggi come alive during the product preview is just a testament to the impact these heart houses will have. I am thrilled with the implementation of the product and to hear the different patient responses!”
Tikkun Olam Makers is an organization with chapters around the world that focuses on solving the overlooked real-world “challenges” of people with disabilities, the elderly and the poor through technology, innovation and collaboration . In keeping with the organization’s goals of making these solutions accessible to everyone, design files and instructions for making hearthouses are available on the TOM:FIU website for free public download and use.
“The best thing to take away from working with Nicklaus Child Life Specialists and other students is realizing that many people can relate to TOM Global’s mission,” Neves said. “If you are a person with a disability, a disability services professional or a creator of any skill level, you have a place in this community to use your expertise and create new solutions that improve the lives of others. least one person, with the potential to help people around the world.”