Community Spotlight: Project M@CH

By Erin Mulcahy

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Welcome to Project MACH: an original mobile makerspace that is brightening children’s days and improving patient care at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, TN. Led by Founder & Project Lead Gokul Krishnan, this initiative has touched the hearts of the littleBits staff and we are honored to be part of their important and meaningful work. Read more about Gokul’s insights on the Project below:

Introduction to Project M@CH

We are embarking on designing and implementing the first Makerspace in a children’s hospital. This innovative, mobile maker environment will have a variety of materials, physical and digital, to work with that can be taken around to the children. Children are invited to design, play and make things using the given materials. This mobile makerspace will not only provide children at the hospital with creative outlets and learning opportunities but would provide the opportunity to explore medical care from a patient’s perspective.  We hope to inspire other hospitals to create and use mobile Makerspaces.


This Makerspace initiative was inspired by Brandon. Brandon was a bright and aspiring high school senior whose goal was to become an engineer. Unfortunately, Brandon was diagnosed with Leukemia and was undergoing treatment in the children’s hospital. To support Brandon’s engineering aspirations, we provided Brandon with a “Mystery Box” that comprised of a variety of digital and physical materials, such as an Arduino microcontroller, LEDs, a string, a plastic cup, an eraser and LEGOs, and was asked to design and make anything he could imagine. In just one night, Brandon designed and built a night-light that allowed the nurses to determine if any trash needed to taken out of the bathroom, without turning on a bright light. The night-light was bright enough to illuminate the bathroom, but not wake the patient. Brandon saw a problem and came up with a remedy using the materials at hand, just like an engineer.

This experience with Brandon inspired us to engage with other children at the hospital, using a variety of physical and digital materials such as littleBits. The results were multiple demonstrations of children enjoying their learning and coming up with creative DIY solutions.


littleBits Projects

Below are some very cool and creative projects that children at the hospital have made using littleBits modules from the Starter and Base Kits:

Rotating Suncatcher

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This is 13-year-old patient, Daelyn’s, beautiful rotating sun catcher that she designed and created using littleBits. Daelyn along with the help of her grandmother came up with this beautiful design. Daelyn decided to make a suncatcher because she wanted to make her room more “playful.” Her grandmother helped scavenge these materials from around the hospital – from the crystal, to the metal string wire, and the heart shaped wrapping paper. Designing and making the sun catcher allowed Daelyn and her grandmother to bond and spend quality time together.


Manna’s Magic Bell

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This is 16-year-old Amanda’s invention that solves a privacy issue in patient’s rooms at night. Amanda called her invention “Mannas Magic Bell.” Pressing a button causes a light to be triggered inside the room. Amanda said that nurses are always knocking on the doors, waking up children and disturbing their sleep.  A solution to this problem, according to Amanda, is to put the “Magic Bell” outside the patient’s door. When the nurse wants to enter the room she can press the button which activates a colorful light to flash inside the patient’s room. Parents, who are usually in the room when their child is sleeping at night, would know that someone outside wants to enter. The parent would then quietly open the door for the nurse, preventing the nurse from knocking on the door multiple times. 


Mood Alert System

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This is 13-year-old McKenzie’s invention that she created using littleBits modules and a variety of materials found around the hospital. McKenzie called her invention a “Mood” Alert System that is designed for patients who cannot communicate well because of issues like a sore throat or a feeding tube. She said her Mood Alert System would allow the nurses to know if something is wrong with the patient and the specific kind of help they need. McKenzie’s Mood Alert System has different colored cards with different moods or needs written on them that can be attached to a slot in a straw. Upon pressing a button, a sound is triggered, which grabs the nurse’s attention, and the card attached to the straw rotates, just like waving a flag. For example one card reads “Sick; get a bucket.”; another “Pain. Get Meds”. McKenzie said other patients can use her Mood Alert System by customizing it according to the issues that they feel need to be addressed. 


Dangerous Snake

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Another contraption 13-year-old McKenzie created was a snake to scare or prank nurses. Pranking or scaring nurses is very popular among children in the hospital. Using littleBits modules, different colored play dough, a straw, box and tissue paper found around the hospital, McKenzie created a rotating snake that seemed to be coming out of his home ready to strike anyone near his vicinity. She also created a large “Beware of Snake” sign to warn people. Her snake scared a lot of unsuspecting nurses and created a lot of laughs for everyone in the hospital.  


To learn more about this inspiring project, you can follow @ProjectMACH on Twitter or visit their website:


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