WSU first university to introduce assistive eating device for students

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio(WDTN)- Sarah Faith Davis is studying communications at Wright State University. On top of her finals, she’s also working to learn how to use Obi. 

“I have cerebral palsy. Some challenges are feeding myself or getting dressed in the morning,” said Davis.

Obi, an invention by the Dayton based Desin LLC, is an assistive eating device. The table-top sized robot with an arm to scoop food so people can feed themselves. 

Jon Dekar, inventor and President of Desin, told 2 News there are four million people in the country who need assistance when it comes time to eat. Wright State University believes they are the only university in the country using this type of technology.

Davis often requires some help with eating. “Scooping the food up is the hardest part for me,” Davis said. “Students like me, we like to be as independent as possible.”

Obi allows people with physical challenges to gain a sense of independence they’ve never had before. 

Dekar was inspired to build the machine after his grandfather developed a degenerative neuromuscular disease. “I saw first hand how hard it was for him to get to the point where my grandmother had to spoon feed him in front of friends and family. He just absolutely loathed it,” Dekar said.

Dekar said he researched assistive eating devices and didn’t find any technologies that existed.

As an inventor, Dekar said the difficult part of Obi’s development didn’t come when figuring out how to get food from a plate to a person. He said the challenge was designing something sleek, simple and almost invisible when used in public.

“And eat with it while not having to focus on how to use it. They could just focus on socializing with others,” Dekar said.

Three devices will be available on campus in the Fall. They are courtesy of a $15,000 grant from the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation.

“It allows a student to just be a student in a normal social situation with friends at the table and not have someone who’s a third wheel that’s paid helping them,” Tom Webb, WSU’s Office of Disability Services Director said. Webb said seeing students use the device make the effort of seeking out grants worth it.   

Davis said Obi will make a long lasting impact. “My friends don’t mind helping me but it’s just going to help me be more independent and more comfortable,” she said. 

Dekar said with no similar devices currently on the market, he expects Obi will become a mainstay assistive device much like the electric wheelchair. 

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