Kitchen Helpers

Designers: Huikai Luu and Vivian Yeoh
Client Coordinators: Robbin Newton, Lenox Baker Hospital
Supervising Professor: Dr. Larry N. Bohs

A set of devices has been developed to aid our client, a 13-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, in common kitchen tasks. These devices provide support for mixing foods, spreading condiments, opening jars and soda cans, and cutting food. The devices have been modified from commercially available products to provide more stability, grip and easier movement control. Each device is relatively inexpensive, easy to assemble and operate, and attractive.

How this project helped
Our client can now be more involved in the kitchen, relying less on his mother, and improving his independence in some of his most desired tasks:  mixing salad and recipe ingredients, making his own sandwiches, opening jars and soda cans, and cutting items such as lemons and sandwiches. His occupational therapist, Robbin Newton, said “I feel [the devices] will make him independent with tasks that he normally wouldn’t be. He is very motivated, even if he doesn’t seem like it. Independence is something that he needs, especially at this age.”

The Kitchen Helpers (Figure 1) consist of a mixing bowl (upper left), a jam stamp and Spreadboard (The Wright Stuff, Grenada, MS) (upper right), a jar opener (lower left), and a cutting board (lower right) that functions both as a jar holder as well as a knife mount.

The mixing bowl assembly is used for mixing a salad or recipe ingredients. It consists of an 8qt. stainless steel mixing bowl, an 8” diameter turntable and a gum rubber gripping ring. The bowl secures to the turntable using Velcro. The rubber ring fits tightly around the lip of the bowl, creating a good grip for turning and holding the bowl. The turntable allows our client to turn the bowl while mixing, eliminating the need to stir in a circular motion. The heavy base of the mixing bowl and turntable assembly makes it less likely for it to tip over. Rubber mats attached to the bottom of the turntable and a Dycem mat for the kitchen counter prevents the assembly from sliding.

The jam stamp and Spreadboard are used to spread different condiments onto bread evenly. The Spreadboard and squeeze bottles are available commercially. The jam stamp is adapted from a potato masher by welding a 4.5” diameter stainless steel plate to the bottom. The upright handle allows for easy movements of the jam stamp without bending the wrist. The large surface area allows the condiment of choice to be spread evenly with minimal movement.

The jar opener was modified from a commercial device (Good Grips Jar Opener, OXO International, NY) by attaching magnets to the underside, a finger hold to the top, and a brass weight to help stabilize the front.

The cutting board, which was modified from a commercial device (Swedish Cutting Board, Westons Internet, West Sussex, England), holds jars and stabilizes a knife for cutting. Without the knife mounted, the cutting board serves as a jar holder with jars fitting tightly between a sliding panel and two square pegs. Two commercial quick-adjust bar clamps secure the cutting board to the countertop to prevent rotation. A custom aluminum knife mount allows foods to be safely cut with the Ergonoma chef knife (Grip Advantage, Inverness, FL) by bringing the knife down in a chopping motion. A custom guard surrounds the knife to further protect hands and fingers. The guard attaches to the knife with a small spring, so that the knife only drops below the guard when food is being cut, and only by the depth of the food. A spring pin in the knife mount allows quick removal of the knife for cleaning. The cost of parts for the Kitchen Helpers was approximately $250.

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