Student’s productivity app concept wins ADI’s STEM accessible-design contest

Winning “Step-O-Maker” design draws on 9-year-old's personal experience with ADHD.

Amy Chodos of Canada wins ADI's fourth-annual “Make the Change Challenge” STEM accessible design contest. Credit: ADI.
Amy Chodos of Canada wins ADI's fourth-annual “Make the Change Challenge” STEM accessible design contest. Credit: ADI.

In its fourth year, ADI’s “Make the Change Challenge” STEM accessible-design contest drew more than 254 outstanding entries from students across North America. Amy Chodos, of Vancouver, British Columbia, secured the contest’s $1,000 grand prize by envisioning an astoundingly simple application that can make the world a more accessible place for people struggling with ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Run by ADI, Israel’s network of specialized rehabilitative care for those touched by and living with disability, to mark Jewish Disability Awareness, Acceptance and Inclusion Month (#JDAIM), the contest promotes “selfless STEM” and encourages students to hack the modern world to help people with disabilities overcome the challenges that hinder their independence and inclusion.

Chodos, an inquisitive and wildly inventive fourth-grade student from Vancouver Talmud Torah in British Columbia, Canada, drew from her own challenges in the classroom to conceive of the “Step-O-Maker,” an app that utilizes artificial intelligence to record complex spoken instructions and then break them down into easy to follow checklists that can guide students through an entire process.

“As someone with ADHD, I find that starting tasks is often overwhelming, and I need help to understand where to begin. My mother also teaches children with hearing loss, and I realized that an app like this could also help her students in the classroom,” explained Chodos. “I wanted to create something that could help a lot of people by making listening and understanding easier in class and making learning more fun and enjoyable.”

“Step-O-Maker,” the winning entry for ADI’s fourth annual “Make the Change Challenge” STEM accessible design contest, is an app for people with ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders that utilizes artificial intelligence to record complex spoken instructions and then break them down into easy-to-follow checklists. Credit: Courtesy.

Instead of developing prototypes, contest entrants were asked to prepare compelling presentations that clearly explained how the original solutions they envisioned would solve the persistent accessibility issues they chose to tackle. Chodos prepared an impressive PowerPoint presentation that clearly explained her challenges and brought her inspired solution to life.

“Year after year, our ‘ADI Bechinuch’ (literally ‘ADI in Education’) disability-inclusion programming spotlights the inaccessibility of our world and our communal responsibility to make a change. From November through February, students from our partner schools across North America become true agents of change while researching and developing original, accessible design ideas in order to participate in our STEM contest, and the results are always awe-inspiring,” said Elie Klein, ADI’s director of development for the United States and Canada.

“We are so impressed by Amy’s poise and creativity, and the brilliant simplicity of her idea. But it’s clear to me that this exceptional young inventor always saw beyond the contest. Just 9 years old, Amy is on a mission; she genuinely wants to see this app developed so it can start to help people. This kind of leadership is what ADI Bechinuch is all about.”

More than 40 Jewish schools across North America–including many affiliated with JNF-USA–utilized the ADI Bechinuch program this year, employing the in-class activities, virtual tours and STEM contest to encourage the next generation of Jewish leaders to see the world through the eyes of others.

On Feb. 25, ADI’s panel of experts, including members of ADI’s professional staff, innovation journalists and specialists in the field of accessible design, met with the contest’s top five finalists and their parents and teachers via Zoom to discuss the entries in greater detail. Following an uplifting discussion, the proceedings concluded with Chodos being crowned the contest winner and presented with the $1,000 grand prize, a gift from the Avraham and Esther Klein Young Entrepreneurs Fund.

The Final 5 also included entries from students at the Posnack Jewish Day School in Davie, Fla.; the Brauser Maimonides Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; the Ramaz School in New York, N.Y.; and the Bornblum Jewish Community School in Memphis, Tenn.

ADI provides its residents and special-education students with the individualized growth plans and specialized services they need to grow and thrive, its rehabilitation patients with the treatments and therapies they need to heal and return to their lives, and the community at large with tangible opportunities for encountering disability, raising awareness and promoting acceptance.

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ADI (pronounced ah-dee) is the Hebrew word for a radiant and multifaceted jewel, a name that reflects our expansive vision and broad scope of activities, including disability care, rehabilitation, research, employment, education, community services and tikkun olam. It also speaks to the importance and great value of our mission to care for the most precious members of our society—those who cannot care for themselves. Understanding that all individuals deserve the best available care and every possible opportunity to reach their greatest potential, ADI provides comprehensive rehabilitative solutions for children, adolescents and adults with severe disabilities and complex medical conditions and pioneers cutting-edge therapeutic and recovery services for anyone touched by disability, all in a dignified, warm and loving atmosphere.
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