Modified Bowl Spoon

User Story 

Aric is a college graduate who majored in Religious Studies. Aric works for a Baseball Team as the assistant director of program distribution. He likes to be outside, play video games, and watch baseball. He values being independent and spending time with his family. Aric has high tone from his cerebral palsy, has limited forearm supination and pronation, and has limited grip strength and range. Aric is seeking services from an occupational therapist to receive help in independently feeding himself with a spoon. Previously he has tried various types of spoons, manual support at the elbow, and wearing DMOs. During an interview with Aric, Aric verbalized his excitement in finding a spoon that will increase his independence in self-feeding with a spoon.

Aric reports that he has tried a number of different types of spoons, but he has not found one that has been sufficient. He is able to eat with an inverted fork (i.e. spikes of fork face down) and utilize a straw to drink (wraps his tongue around the straw), but the shape of the spoon is not meeting his needs to independently eat. He has tried many spoons with different neck angles. The medium angle seems to be the most effective for him; with this design, however, he tends to spill the contents on his spoon as he brings the spoon to his mouth. When bringing the food to his mouth, the face of the spoon moves from a parallel position holding food flat to a perpendicular position causing the food to fall off. Aric has difficulty abducting his shoulder and bending his wrist, so a spoon that accommodates decreased elbow flexion is ideal. Aric has no trouble with grip expressing a pronated cylindrical grip on a built-up handle. When being spoon-fed, Aric does not have trouble eating or swallowing. When self-feeding with a spoon, he gags and cannot complete eating. This may be due to him hitting his teeth or gums with the spoon. Aric also cannot close his lips, so his mouth remains open while chewing. Other sensory considerations, like texture and temperature, may prevent him from self-feeding.

Problem Statements 

User need statement: Aric is a 24-year-old college graduate who has a hard time eating independently, because he can’t keep food on his spoon.

POV Question: How might we help Aric succeed in eating independently with a spoon?

Design Process

Initial Design:

Initial brainstorming round in Jamboard:


Initial Prototypes:

#1: Large spoon with handle

Notes after #1 Prototype Testing:

  • Need to create deeper basin for water/thin liquids
  • Paper clips work well to mold handle – could we find a material that would allow him to adjust the neck from time to time?
  • Tilt the funnel upwards (it’s currently sloped down)
  • Thin out face of spoon/actual spoon portion
  • Make nicer/more aesthetic
  • Make different sized spoon heads → this one is too large and is unrealistic

Instructor feedback:

  • Our first prototype was too large to be realistic, that it would be beneficial to make multiple smaller prototypes with variations so Aric can try them at his OT appointment
  • We could attempt to make a clip-on that would sit on the bowl of a spoon that Aric already owns/uses.

Video of 1st prototype compared to Aric’s current spoon:

Video of Prototypes.pptx

#2: Clip-on for a large spoon

#3: Clip-on for small spoon

#4: Small spoon w/ handle

Revisions and Design Update:

Feedback from Aric (client) and his OT:

Aric tested our four initial prototypes with his OT. Aric liked the black handle on prototype #1 the best due to the diameter and cushy texture of the pipe insulation on the grip of the spoon. In terms of the bowl of the spoon, Aric had difficulty scooping due to the excessive amount of surface area and curvature of the bowl of the spoon in prototype #1. Aric was unable to pick up practice beads with this design. Aric found that the large clip-on spoon bowl (prototype #2) best served his needs. This bowl allowed him to scoop and self-feed. Prototypes #3 and #4 did not meet his needs due to size of the bowl in #3 and the depth of the bowl of the spoon in #4.

We decided to combine parts of prototypes #1 and #2 based on Aric’s preferences.

Feedback from Instructor

We created a similar design with a smaller handle and bowl (#4). Given Aric’s feedback about this prototype, we no longer considered this design. Secondly, instructor liked our clip-on designs (#2 and #3), but thought #2 would be the most successful for the larger bowl of the spoon Aric is accustomed to using.

We had a few ideas for what materials to use to build up a cushioned spoon handle, such as a wooden dowel or strictly isomorph. After collaborating with our instructor to discuss these options, she felt that having a light weight, solid material would be comfortable and aesthetically pleasing. Our original plan was to cut the spoon at the neck of the spoon and wedge it in a wooden dowel. However, our instructor advised against cutting metal due to the difficulty and stressed the importance of maintaining the original spoon handle. She helped us think about other alternatives. Our instructors suggested that we either split the wooden dowel and sandwich the handle of the spoon between the two halves, or route a thin piece of wood into a similar shape to the wooden dowel and use that as the base of the handle.

Left image. Our bent spoon next to commercially adapted spoon. Right image. Our bent spoon next to a wooden dowel.

Given the feedback from our instructors about what material to use around the handle of the spoon, we decided to use a hand saw to split the wooden dowel in half longways. During this process, she provided us helpful suggestions and feedback on where to saw and how to appropriately clamp curved wood. Then, after splitting the wood entirely and positioning the spoon between the two halves, we noticed that the handle may be longer than needed. After consulting with our instructor, she agreed that we had excess wood and suggested we cut off about 1 inch of wood to shorten the handle. Additionally, our instructor suggested we add foam material between the pieces to fill gaps in our handle. After using hot glue to attach the foam and spoon to the wooden dowel, our instructor straightened the wooden pieces to create a uniform cylindrical handle.

After letting the hot glue dry, we then wrapped the built-up handle in splinting material to ensure that the spoon could be washed with soap and water. During this process, our instructor suggested that we roll the handle on the table to ensure that the splinting material wraps tightly, firmly, and smoothly. She also advised that we make sure the splinting material is fully sealed to prevent food and liquid from getting inside the handle, which could cause mold build-up on the wooden dowel.

Finally, we discussed what we wanted to wrap around the wooden handle to create a cushion around the grip for Aric. Initially we considered two different textured pipe insulation tubing. When asking our instructor about these materials, she agreed that using pipe insulation was appropriate and she asked us to consider what material would best support Aric’s grip. When we proposed our idea to secure the pipe insulation with velcro to allow Aric to remove the insulation for cleaning, our instructor agreed that it would be best to position the velcro on areas of the handle that would not come into contact with his hand, to prevent skin irritation. She also suggested that we shave down the side of the insulation at the top of the handle to create more clearance for food while scooping.

Full Spoon — built up handle (wooden dowel inside, adding cushion with pipe insulation to handle tomorrow) with adapted spoon bowl

Portable clip-on adapted bowl. This clip-on can be placed on any spoon that Aric owns.

Final Design

Design Plan:

Handle: Given Aric’s feedback that he preferred the handle on prototype #1, we wanted to make a handle that was the same diameter, length, and cushion, but was neater. To make prototype #1, we used thermoplastic to create a cylindrical handle ourselves, but this made for an asymmetrical handle. Therefore, we wanted to find a way to make a handle that would be a more uniform and symmetrical handle. We decided to use a wooden dowel as our base to wrap thermoplastic around, which would allow us to roll a smoother cylindrical handle. The wooden dowel will be cut in half longways so the handle of the spoon can be sandwiched between the two halves using hot glue and the handle will then be circular. Wrapping the wooden dowel in thermoplastic will also create a tight seal so water and food can not get into the handle and the handle can be washed with soap and water.

Once the thermoplastic has been wrapped around the wooden dowel and smoothed out, we will then add pipe insulation to create a cushioned and padded handle for comfort. We will use insulation with ⅛” thickness to prevent the handle from becoming too big and bulky. We plan to design the insulation so it can be removed from the handle when the spoon needs to be cleaned. We first thought we would attach the insulation using velcro, but due to concerns regarding skin irritation we decided to use pipe insulation tape instead. The pipe insulation tape will be wrapped around a piece of paper that has been fully sealed with packing tape to create a cylindrical grip that can be slid on and off the handle. This will allow for easy cleaning.

Spoon neck bend: Given the information we received from Aric and his mom in the initial Zoom meeting and the feedback received after our initial prototypes, we wanted to make a spoon handle that had a bend in the neck to angle towards Aric’s mouth. To make prototype #1, we used thermoplastic that we molded to create the bend, however this was messy and bulky. For our final product, we wanted the spoon to look more clean and uniform so we decided to buy a spoon that we could manually bend to the angle that we wanted. We plan to purchase a thin metal spoon that can be bent using pliers.

Bowl: Given Aric’s feedback that he preferred the large spoon bowl on prototype #2, we wanted to make a spoon bowl that maintained the same curvature, depth, and size of this prototype. However, we wanted to thin out the InstaMorph to make the spoon bowl more sleek and less bulky. We decided to utilize InstaMorph to shape a spoon bowl with a U-shaped, high lip to prevent food from falling off the spoon when Aric brings the food to his mouth. We also wanted to shape the InstaMorph so there was a funnel-like feature at the end of the spoon to make it easier for Aric to get the food off the spoon. Finally, we wanted to ensure that the InstaMorph was smooth and thin enough on the bowl of the metal spoon to allow for easy scooping of food.

Our plan is to mold a modified spoon bowl onto the metal bowl of the spoon that we bent and on which we built up the handle. This will create a spoon that meets Aric’s needs on the handle, the neck bend of the spoon, and the bowl of the spoon. However, we wanted to also create a modified spoon bowl that could be clipped on and off of any medium-size spoon that Aric owns. With this clip-on bowl, we will create the same features (i.e. U-shaped, high lip, smooth, funnel-like end, etc.) with the addition of a top and a bottom lip on the back of the bowl to allow a metal spoon to be clipped into this bowl attachment. The InstaMorph will be molded so the top and bottom lips will keep the bowl on the metal spoon without falling off during use.

Material Considerations & Budget: 

Supplies to purchase:

Item Price Amount Used (Price calculated)  Properties Alternative(s)
Spoon $1.00/ spoon (Target) 1 Spoon ($1.00) Stainless steel, thin, sturdy Make out of instamorph
InstaMorph $14.99/ 6 oz bag (Amazon) 1 oz ($2.50) Non-toxic moldable plastic Moldable food-grade silicone
Thermoplastic $29.95 / 2 17” x 21” sheets (Amazon) ¼ sheet ($7.49) Moldable, stretchy, strong, durable, dries solid, cleanable/wipeable InstaMorph (thermoplastic sheet easier to wrap around dowel), duct tape (not as sanitary, durable)
Hot Glue $2.99/ 18 sticks (Michael’s) 1 stick ($0.16) Quick-hardening adhesive Tape around handle
Wooden Dowel $1.50/ 36” L x ½”  D dowel (Michael’s) 5” L x ½” D ($0.21) Durable, wood, cylindrical, lightweight Build out of thermoplastic, use another piece of wood that you round out yourself
Foam $1.00/1 9” x 12” sheet (Michael’s) 6” x ½” strip ($0.03) Cushion, soft, easily cut, lightweight Use more hot glue to sandwich spoon with wooden dowel
Pipe Insulation Tape $13.20/ ⅛” x 2” x 30’ (Lowe’s) 8” L ($0.29) Cushion, soft, has sticky backing, stretchable, lightweight Pipe insulation tubing (thicker) with velcro to secure around handle
Printer Paper $9.25/ 500 sheets (Amazon) 1 sheet ($0.02) Flexible, lightweight Cardboard (not as flexible, thicker)
Packing Tape $3.29 /  1 roll (Amazon) 12” L ($0.01) Sticky, seals paper, easily glides on thermoplastic Laminating a sheet of paper (inflexible, more costly)

Total to make full spoon: $11.71

Tools needed:

  • Hand saw
  • Clamps
  • Splinting pan
  • Pliers
  • Hot glue gun
  • Spatula
  • Towel
  • Metal scissors

Product Critique 


Strengths Weaknesses Suggestions for improvement
Thermoplastics and InstaMorph allows the spoon to be cleaned with soap and water Not aesthetically appealing (color, not perfectly smooth, etc.) Send mold to a manufacturer to print a neater product
InstaMorph is non-toxic InstaMorph is not FDA food safe Try to find a material that is non-toxic and also food-safe (potentially a silicone-based material)
U-shaped lip on bowl prevents food and liquid from falling off of the spoon when bringing it to the mouth This lip makes the spoon significantly larger than a typical spoon Through further testing and trialing, find the optimal amount of material needed for the U-shaped lip
Built-up grip is cushioned for comfort Material could break down over time and need to be replaced Find a material that is still cushioned but can be permanently kept on the spoon during washing
Cushioned grip can be removed to allow the spoon to be cleaned Pulling the grip on and off may cause the material to break down Create a mechanism that has similar properties to a slap-on bracelet and can be slapped onto the handle
The bend of the neck of the spoon is the optimal angle for Aric The bend of the spoon is permanent due to extended thermoplastic onto the neck of the spoon to create a seal Do not extend the thermoplastic as high up onto the neck to allow for potential changes to the bend with pliers, or find a metal material that could be more easily bent and modified as needs of the client change
Clip-on product allows for the spoon face to be used on a variety of spoons rather than being limited to one utensil Clip-on may not fit onto all spoon faces (i.e. size) as designed A variety of different sizes could be created to fit a larger range of spoons
InstaMorph material allows client to re-mold the bowl of the spoon at home if needed InstaMorph bowl of spoon could break with force Find a material that is more sturdy and durable
Spoon can be cleaned with soap and water Spoon cannot be put in the dishwasher Find a moldable material that can withstand high heat or send mold to a manufacturer to make the spoon with a material that can withstand high heat
Spoon can be used with a variety of foods (e.g. cereal, applesauce, yogurt, pudding, etc.) Spoon cannot be used with high temperature foods (i.e. boiling soup) Find a moldable material that can withstand high heat



Manufacturing instructions: Modified Bowl Spoon Manufacturing Instructions

User instructions: Modified Bowl Spoon User Instructions

Student designers: Jenna Burns, Abigail Finkelston, Natalie Noble, Sarah Ross

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