They say “necessity is the mother of invention,” and that seems to be true when it comes to STEM creations.
A group of 10 budding engineers at Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland, recently invented a device that enables people in wheelchairs to push a baby stroller. The teens were inspired to create the WheeStroll device when Chelsie King, a teacher at their school, went to their own teacher to ask for help.
Chelsie’s husband, Jeremy King, had brain surgery to remove a tumor three years ago, which left him with physical challenges. While he can walk, he is unsteady and usually gets around in a wheelchair for safety’s sake.
The two of them were expecting their son Phoenix to be born in March. As they struggled to find adaptive ways for Jeremy to care for an infant, they realized there was no way for him to take their baby for a walk outside in a stroller. They searched the internet, but they couldn’t find any invention to assist him.
Luckily, Chelsie had a flash of brilliance when she remembered that fellow Bullis teacher Matt Zigler leads a high school class called “Making for Social Good.” Matt thought Chelsie’s idea to make Jeremy an adaptive wheelchair attachment was the perfect project for his students, so they got to work!
“The idea of the course is to start out by trying to understand the problem, so we did interviews with the family,” Matt said. “We talked to somebody at the local fire department who actually does infant car seat installation training to try to better understand how those things work.”
The students were eager to help Chelsie and her family. They held a video conference with Jeremy and Chelsie to discuss his needs and wants, and then they each came up with an idea and created a 3D model for it. Together, they narrowed everything down to the best two designs.
“We were all very goal-oriented,” student Jacob Zlotnitsky said. “We were all focused on successfully making the best product we could in the amount of time we had.”
The teens put their designs through rigorous testing before they were ready for Jeremy to try one out.
“It was certainly emotional seeing the process and everything that went into this,” Jeremy said. “I really feel the students took all my concerns to heart when creating the prototypes.”
The WheeStroll was completed around the same time Chelsie gave birth. Just a few weeks later, she and Jeremy were able to take Phoenix out for a walk around their neighborhood for the very first time!
“Using it was overwhelming because I never thought I would be able to do something like this with our son,” Jeremy said. “Most people can go out on a walk with their family but that is really difficult for me — most people take that for granted.”
Their family is thrilled with the invention, and they’re even more pleased that their request will now help countless other parents with disabilities. As for the innovative students, they are working on easily making the design out of inexpensive materials to get the WheeStroll into as many homes as possible.
“I feel fortunate to have been able to take a class that has allowed me to truly make a difference in someone’s life,” Jacob added.
The Bullis students have since won two international awards for creating the WheeStroll. What a perfect example of using empathy and ingenuity to solve real-life problems!
Share this story to congratulate the teens on their creative solution to Jeremy’s dilemma.
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