MO BETTER FOUNDATION SUPPORTS NATIONAL EFFORTS TO ENCOURAGE STEM STUDENTS TO MAKE REAL-WORLD DIFFERENCE IN THE LIVES OF THOSE AROUND THEM

                                                          MO Better Foundation recently presented a $2,000 check to help support Kansas                                                                      City- based REACH CHALLENGE, an Adaptive & Assistive Technology project in                                                                            which middle school, high school, and college students help students use their                                                                        STEM skills to reach out and assist a member of their community who has a                                                                              challenge to overcome.

                                                           “This project really is life changing, not only for the person receiving the adaptive technology, but for the students and their teachers as well,” said Gavin Wood, Co-Founder of REACH Challenge and an award-winning STEM educator from The Barstow School est 1884 in Kansas City, MO. Woods partnered with the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association  (ITEEA), a professional organization for technology, innovation, design, and engineering educators to develop REACH Challenge. Woods recently joined the MO Better Foundation Advisory Council. Woods and his wife, Andrea, came up with the concept and created the Challenge, which has taken off Nationally thanks to the support of ITEEA.

“This was our first year with REACH Challenge and we are absolutely blown away by these students’ innovations,” said Steve Barbato, ITEEA Executive Director. “We couldn’t be more excited to honor these teams for their accomplishments.”

In this first year for REACH Challenge, teams created such AT solutions as:

 

  • A “Bat Cane” using sensors to help a boy with visual impairments and mobility challenges be able to sense objects around him. The boy’s paraprofessional described the invention as a “game changer” for his students.

  • A specialized napkin folder to help a man with Down syndrome gain employment;

  • A customized, fine motor skills toy for a special education classroom that could only afford one educational toy for their classroom every two years;

  • A hydraulic leg-lifting chair for a woman with Multiple Sclerosis;

  • An innovative beach wheelchair for a classmate with Cerebral Palsy;

  • A hand stretching device for a woman who survived a stroke at a young age.

"Seeing the innovation, creativity and, most importantly, compassion of these STEM students warms the heart" said Dave Welborn, Founder and Exec. Dir. of MO Better Foundation. "We are excited to be a part of this effort and similar efforts to not only to influence but help stimulate asssistive projects aimed at making life 'more better' for those living with disabilities."

Welborn added that MO Better Foundation will continued its support next year and for several years after. "We are anxious to be a part of the growth of this life enhancing venture," he said.

ABOUT ITEEA

ITEEA represents more than 35,000 secondary technology and engineering educators in the U.S. alone who are developers, administrators, and university personnel in the field representing all levels of education. ITEEA corporate members are comprised of leading technology companies. ITEEA's mission is that "Technology and Engineering Bring STEM to Life!” ITEEA seeks to meet the professional needs and interests of members, as well as to improve public understanding of technology, innovation, design, and engineering education and its contributions.

Click here to see video of the finalists projects: https://tinyurl.com/REACH-Challenge-2019)

Click here for complete Media Advisory from ITEEA: https://www.iteea.org/News/282/168867.aspx…

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Tessmer Using Life Experience to Help Others in the Workforce

                                                            Congratulations to Jonathan Tessmer, President of the MO Better Friends

                                                            Young Professionals Group and member of the MO Better Foundation                                                                                  Advisory Council for being selected to Co-Chair Cushman & Wakefield 's 

                                                            National "Leading with Education and Awareness of Disabilities" Employee       

                                                            Resource Group. The goal of the group is to build and leverage a diverse and 

                                                            inclusive environment at Cushman & Wakefield that wholly and positively

                                                            impacts people with disabilities, and those whose lives are touched by them.

                                                            Tessmer, a Support Coordinator in Asset Services at Cushman & Wakefield,

                                                            lives with a form of Muscular Dystrophy. Last year, he reached out to

                                                            management seeking to use his life experience living with a physical disability

                                                            to create a resource to help others in and outside organization.

 

                                                            “Our vision is to play a progressive role in the defining and furthering of an inclusive workplace for those that care about disabilities, learning differences, specials needs, or neurodiversity, whether for themselves or a child, relative, or friend through sharing advice and building awareness, community involvement and support and become an inclusive employer in the marketplace," Tessmer said.

"We also seek to embrace diversity and provide multiple resources that help us deliver outstanding service to our shareholders and clients which prepare them for what’s next, ” he added.

Cushman & Wakefield is a leading global real estate services firm that delivers exceptional value for real estate occupiers and owners. Cushman & Wakefield is among the largest real estate services firms with 51,000 employees in approximately 400 offices and 70 countries. In 2018, the firm had revenue of $8.2 billion across core services of property, facilities and project management, leasing, capital markets, valuation and other services.

Congratulations and THANK YOU, Jonathan and the leadership team of Cushman & Wakefield, for recognizing the need and creating this very important group. We are anxious to see -- and support -- your efforts.

 

Note: Jonathan is married to Sarah Tessmer, who also works at Cushman & Wakefield as Assistant Property Manager and Chair Elect of Cushman & Wakefield's Future Leaders. Sarah is VP of MO Better Friends. We are blessed to be surrounded by good people.

Gavin Wood Joins Advisory Council

We are very excited to announce that Gavin Wood has agreed to serve on the MO Better Foundation's Advisory Council. The MO Better Advisory Council is a team of individuals (all volunteers) from many different fields who lend their shared expertise and knowledge to help the organization build awareness and grow our mission and help individuals living with disabilities live "more better."

Gavin has been a STEM educator for 17 years and holds a Masters in Education. His focus on engineering for social good, design-thinking, and developing an ecosystem of innovation with his students has earned him numerous recognitions, including the FIRST Robitics Competition Woodie Flowers Finalist Award, the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association (ITEEA) Teacher Excellence Award, and the Lawrence W. Prakken Professional Cooperation Award.

As the STEAM Director for The Barstow School est 1884 in Kansas in Kansas City, Gavin designs curriculum that reinforces user-centered design and the “empathy” part of the Engineering Design process. In his role as head coach of a world-championship level FIRST Robotics team (FRC Team 1939), Wood developed a global partnership with GoBabyGo, which creates adaptive technology to help children with mobility challenges. Wood founded and operates an online forum (www.gbgconnect.com), connecting families in need with GoBabyGo chapters worldwide, and provides how-to manuals to teach others how to make adaptive technology for children in their communities.

To encourage more STEM programs to incorporate adaptive technology projects into their curriculum, Wood and his wife, Andrea, founded REACH Challenge @Reach Challenge (www.reachchallenge.org) in cooperation with ITEEA in 2019, developing a unique toolkit of resources for participating teams. REACH Challenge is an impactful Adaptive & Assistive Technology design-thinking project for middle school, high school, and college students. See link for more info https://youtu.be/WqoWsQqfgww

GRANTS GIVEN TO TWO MISSOURI NONPROFITS THATS SHARE OUR MISSION  

This past year, the MO Better Foundation team has been meeting with organizations throughout Missouri that share our mission to make life "more better" for individuals living with physical disabilities. MO Better Foundation provides funds to Missourians living with disabilities to aid in purchasing items to assist in daily living - particularly items related to technology, transportation, recreation, home modification and mobility.

 

To that end, we've had several follow-up meetings and conversations with two organizations in particular, Paraquad in St. Louis, MO and Ability KC in Kansas City, MO. Both organizations -- and their leadership teams -- are VERY impressive and align themselves perfectly with what we are trying to achieve. Together, they serve thousands of adults and children on both sides of the state each year.

 

In November, MO Better Foundation presented checks to both organizations to help them grow the following programs. The checks come with a pledge to fund the programs for additional year (or longer).

Paraquad's "Ramp Up for Accessibility" Project, an annual ramp building and modification project which includes the building of exterior wheelchair ramps and interior home modifications to increase accessibility, independence and safety. Annually, the project includes 15-20 project sites, and it benefits the families that live in those homes.

 

Ability KC's "Adaptive Gaming" Program, a unique program aimed at using the positive impact of video games to bring people together and improve the quality of life through rehabilitation and leisure activities. The program has three components:

~ utilize adaptive gaming activities as a therapeutic method and access to leisure.

~ adapt video gaming methods to pursue or resume a leisure interest

~ create an opportunity to experience adaptive gaming and broaden social community for individuals with disabilities

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