HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A 15-year-old student at Pope John Paul II Preparatory School in Hendersonville, Tennessee, designed and 3D printed a lunch tray meant to help those with disabilities keep their lunch on their tray.
Adaline Hamlin's design titled "Stop the Slide: A Lunch Tray for Students with Disabilities" was birthed out of a challenge she witnessed her friend experience.
"Her idea came from an experience she had where she saw someone spill their lunch into the floor. And she really used that first step of design thinking which is empathy," explained Jennifer Dye, Pope Prep Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship.
Hamlin explained, "They needed a lunch tray because their food could be everywhere and they’d have to pick it up and put it in a garbage can."
Hamlin is part of the school's Genius Hour where Dye challenged her students to find solutions.
"My group began walking around the school. The challenge was to think of things in your community that could benefit others. And as we walked around the school, there were lots of fantastic ideas. Some students were thinking about potential ideas for making our schools safer. One group of students, a group of sixth graders, wanted an alarm bell, like, at the end of the hallway that was a countdown to tell you how much time you had left to get to class," Dye recounted. "But then, we walked to the cafeteria. And Adeline said, ‘I think we need a lunch tray.’ And I said, Well, ‘what do you mean by a lunch tray?’ and she said, ‘The food falls off the lunch tray. I think we need to fix the lunch tray.’"
Once Dye approved Hamlin's idea, they got to work making a prototype.
"We went to the lunch room and we asked if we could have a lunch tray so that we could work on modifying the lunch tray," said Dye. "We pulled out popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners and straws and paper clips and all different kinds of materials. And Adeline picked bendy straws, because she figured out that if you use the bendy straw, you could actually create these angles that the plate would fit into."
Prototype in hand, Hamlin took her design to the 3D printing club.
"I thought it was a very good project," said rising Pope Prep senior Zach Lance. "I spent about half an hour in study hall designing everything and I sent the models over to him [my teacher] to print."
In a matter of hours, Lance was able to show Hamlin the parts he printed and she attached them to her school's lunch tray for a lap around the lunchroom.
"My best friend has tried and tested it with french fries, pizza, things like that...and apple juice, of course!" Hamlin said, "It worked!"
Hamlin won the Tennessee STEM and Innovation Network's statewide design competition's "STEM for ALL Award" for her lunch tray design in the spring of 2022, the first time a student from Pope Prep has won an award at the contest.
"The award that Adeline received was the ‘STEM for all Award’, which recognizes that everyone has the ability to do STEM so we shouldn't just think of STEM as being accessible to students only in the gifted program or the AP physics student," explained Dye. "STEM is for anyone who wants to design and solve problems, especially for other people."
Hamlin's 3D print file is available for any school to download and adjust for their school's sized plates, cups and bowls.
"If you have the printer the amount of filament would be less than $5. So you can take your lunch tray and for less than $5 print the components. You could adjust the components to fit whatever size plate or bowl or materials that you want to hold onto your tray," explained Dye.
For the downloadable 3D file, reach out to Pope Prep via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
"I think it's really important to stop and listen and look for needs within your community. And then move beyond just empathy," said Dye. "Really find ways to make a difference and make an impact. I think what Adeline did is she saw a need but she didn't stop there. She said let's fix it. Let's make a difference. And then finding the people who can help you do that. So we worked with her other friends in Genius Hour. We worked with a 3D print club. So also finding the people you may not have the resources and the talents to make that change. But finding the people who can."