Student designs pen for people with Parkinson’s

Ashwathy Satheesan has invented a stabilising pen called Fleo that helps people with Parkinson’s tremors to write and draw. Her invention has also won an international award
Ashwathy Satheesan
Ashwathy Satheesan

Chennai

A graduate from the National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, Ashwathy Satheesan designed a stabilising pen called Fleo that helps people with Parkinson’s tremors to write and draw. The 23-year-old’s invention was recognised and she has won the James Dyson Award, an international award that is given to people who can provide a solution to real-world problems. The pen is designed in such a way that it resists the tremors and allows a person with Parkinson’s disease to write in a controlled way.
“I designed the pen as part of my third-year classroom project. We were given the freedom to choose the subject that we like. Right from the beginning, I wanted to bring about a change through design. That’s how I decided to do something that is inclusive. I came across a Parkinson’s club in Ahmedabad and visited the place during Sundays. I spoke to a lot of people who had the condition and understood their difficulties. I realised that people with Parkinson’s tremors find it difficult to perform simple tasks like writing and drawing. I also met an artist who was unable to hold a pencil. It was heartbreaking to hear certain stories. I thought why not use design as an aid and help people who live with Parkinson’s,” she says.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder commonly causes stiffness or slowing of movement. Ashwathy started researching more about the subject and ways in which it can be addressed. 
“I came up with a group of concepts. After thorough research, I understood that gyroscopic principles can be applied to the design I had in mind. Like how a spinning object tries to hold its motion away from its axis, the pen can resist tremors and allow a person to write in a controlled manner.
I developed a lot of prototypes of Fleo,” shares Ashwathy. The pen is battery-operated and has ergonomic support that gives a grip to the user. Once she developed the prototype, the youngster applied for the James Dyson Award. It is an international design award that celebrates, encourages and inspires the designers of new problem-solving ideas. 
“I applied for it because I wanted my design to get some visibility. But I never thought that I would win the award. That was like a cherry on top,” the designer tells us. 
The youngster hopes that this exposure would give her more opportunities to work with collaborators. 

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