By Cheryl Toomey
Four UTC students have turned an engineering project into an opportunity for a child to learn to walk on his own.
Landyn is a six-year-old boy with paroxysmal tonic upgaze, a condition with symptoms similar to Cerebral Palsy. Practicing with his walker will build Landyn’s leg strength and hopefully lead to the ability to walk unassisted, doctors say. However, Landyn showed little interest in his walker and preferred to use his power chair to get around.
That’s where Taylor Myers, Suzanne Eslick, James Berry, and Taylor Baird came in. Landyn’s mother felt that if they had a shell to clamp onto Landyn’s walker to make it more inviting to Landyn, he would be encouraged to use it more often. The team chose this engineering project because they liked the idea of helping someone.
“It sounded like a good cause to encourage someone to use something they currently don’t want to use that can help their health,” said Baird. “We wanted to encourage him to move and to get active.”
This shell clamps onto Landyn’s walker, moving with him as he uses it, so the team had to take special care to make the object child friendly and durable.
Of crucial importance to the project was making the walker shell engaging for Landyn. Landyn particularly enjoys vehicles, so the team brainstormed a walker shell that might look like a tow truck, a train, or other vehicles. They eventually settled on a design that looked like a bus. There is a key to ‘start’ the bus so that it feels more real, as well as a moving steering wheel that allows Landyn to pretend to drive.
“When we talked to his mother, we kept tossing out ideas of whether it should look like a bus, a tow truck, or a train,” said Berry. “We met him twice, so we got a pretty good idea of what he wanted, but if we could do it again, we would probably spend more time with Landyn. It would have been easier to pinpoint exactly what he wanted.”
The walker shell also features a basket which allows Landyn to take things with him, like his backpack or paperwork, or just to transport toys to and from his room in his “bus.”
One challenge for the group that built Landyn’s walker shell was that some members had little to no experience with power tools.
“The hardest part was learning how to use new equipment. Some of us had never even used power drills before,” said Eslick.
Group members had their first experiences with table saws, power sanders, and nail guns.
“The hardest part was putting it together, assembling the structure of it,” said Myers. “We had to get it just right.”
“The best part of the project was knowing that maybe, further down the road, he might be able to walk without his walker because we encouraged him to do it,” said Baird.