Students at Hereward College in Coventry, England are tapping the University of Warwick's expert knowledge in 3D printing and adaptive systems to create assistive equipment for their own personal needs.

And it's all done with a 3D printer donated by 3D Systems.

By learning to use CAD technology through sessions with staff and students from the University of Warwick, a group of Hereward students with restricted physical movement have come up with solutions to every-day challenges, such as eating and drinking, which they can print out with the click of a button.

These include a customized straw-holder designed by a student with Muscular Dystrophy to help keep a straw in place when he drinks from a bottle.

Twenty-one year old Hereward residential student Ollie Baskaran came up with the device with the help of his tutor, Russell Smith.

Shaped like a cork with a hole in the middle, the simple design allows him to enjoy a beer or a soft drink from a variety of different bottles.

"I have limited strength and need to use a straw, but when you lift and tip the bottle at an angle, the straw moves around, making drinking difficult," Baskaran said. "I wanted to design something that would hold the straw in place and this was my brainwave. To be honest, I'm quite surprised nobody has come up with the idea before."

"The straw-holder just makes it ten times easier to enjoy a drink," he continued. "We took less than an hour to get all the measurements we needed and to create the design, which then took about 20 minutes to print.

"Without 3D printing, I would never have been able to get the idea professionally designed and manufactured as it would have cost too much. This technology opens up so many possibilities to make life easier for people with disabilities."

Other Hereward students have created an adapted version of the straw-holder which fits into a wine glass and a personalized fork that makes eating easier for those with limited muscle function in their hands.

The 3D printing project, entitled, "Engaging Young People with Assistive Technologies," has been running since September with funding from the University of Warwick.

It is part of a wider university drive to engage with groups of learners who are underrepresented in science and technology at the degree level.

The project is delivered by two university departments – WMG, which has extensive expertise in additive layer manufacturing, and the Department of Computer Sciences, which has strength in adaptive systems (designing software and systems around an individual's particular needs), in conjunction with the Access Research and Development Department at Hereward College.

"Many people with disabilities have a variety of unmet needs where an off-the-shelf solution is not good enough," University of Warwick Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Christina Hughes said. "At Warwick we have deep technical knowledge in computer sciences and product manufacturing, but it's the students themselves who have knowledge of disability and the challenges they and their friends face every day.

"By bringing together these two different types of expertise, we are seeing fantastic results as the students are able to solve some of these problems through this technology," she continued. "This group of learners is currently underrepresented in science and technology subjects at the degree level, so we also hope that by inspiring them to create their own products, they might consider studying one of the (science, technology, engineering and math) subjects at university."