PEORIA — Eleven-year-old Cherokee Layton was mesmerized.
Sitting in a wheelchair in an activity room at OSF HealthCare Children’s Hospital of Illinois on Wednesday morning, Cherokee was coloring while watching her artwork develop in real-time through the screen of a cell phone. It’s one of many high-tech features that come with the new activity book and companion app developed at Jump Simulation.
“Cool,” said Cherokee.
Child Life Specialist Katie Luehrman agreed.
“This is longer than most activities last,” she said. “The typical attention span is like 4 minutes.”
The activity book was distributed this week to Child Life Specialists at the hospital, who will use it not only to entertain children, but also to teach them about their bodies.
“I think this will be a great tool to help them learn about their condition,” said Luehrman. “It would also be good for siblings when we are trying to explain a diagnosis to them. Some kids want to know everything. It depends on the age and child.”
Though it’s designed to be fun, the activity book is actually a powerful teaching tool which explains the various systems in the body with the help of virtual reality. The book was funded through a $400,000 grant from PNC Foundation with the goal of expanding Jump’s STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) program to students who are patients at Children’s Hospital. The ultimate goal is to reach nearly 23,000 kids in five years by distributing it at hospitals everywhere.
“We want children’s hospitals all over the county to be able to use this,” said John Vozenelik, vice president and chief medical officer of Jump Simulation while sitting in the innovation lab at Jump where the activity book was developed. “Our goal was to make it low cost and highly distributable. We wanted to make it something other hospitals can replicate.”
Though not all the details have been finalized yet, the activity book is already available for other hospitals to download and print. Children and parents can download the companion app onto their phones from anywhere.
In addition to the activity book, the design team also created a more advanced activity for older children.
“It’s a Rube Goldberg machine, which is basically an overly complicated way to complete a simple task,” said project team member Sister M. Pieta Keller, a biomedical engineer, while standing beside a square of pegboard holding 3D printed parts of the body.
Children are given the pegboard and a box containing all the parts to set up on a table by their hospital beds. The machine has its own companion app which leads kids through lessons about the different parts of the body. At the end of each lesson children are instructed to place the 3D printed body part they just learned about onto the pegboard in a particular spot. After the last lesson, when all the parts are in place, a marble dropped into the machine rolls and bounces through all the parts until it reaches the end, where it catapults a tiny figure named Rube-E into the air.
Though it’s a bit more complicated to download, the machine will also be available to hospitals who have a 3D printer, and most do these days, said Vozenelik.
The activity book and Rube Goldberg machine provide something for every age group and ability. The youngest child can color, while older children are given the more challenging activity of building the machine. And there’s plenty in between, including a video game where germs get shot down.
“Honestly, that coloring book is for everyone,” said Keller. “I gave it to Sister Angelita yesterday and she was laughing her head off.”
Leslie Renken can be reached at 686-3250 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter.com/LeslieRenken, and subscribe to her on Facebook.com/leslie.renken.