Fundamentally, engineering is problem solving. And Potomac, Maryland’s Bullis school had a problem: the school’s middle school theater teacher, Chelsie King was expecting a baby with her husband, Jeremy King. That was the good news.
Unfortunately, Jeremy had undergone surgery to remove a brain tumor, a procedure that has left him with physical limitations that would make it difficult for him to walk with a baby stroller.
That’s when future engineers in the Bullis Upper School’s Making for Social Good class got the assignment to solve King’s problem. One team of students pursued a system for connecting a stroller to King’s wheelchair. Another group designed a simpler solution to mount a child car safety seat directly to the wheelchair, eliminating the stroller entirely.
Teacher Matt Ziglar counseled the team of students Evan Beach, Benjamin Gordon, Aidan McDuffie, and Jewel Walker on their wheelchair-stroller combination, dubbed “WheeStroll,” and Kieran Anzelone, Ibenka Espinoza, Cami Murphy, Julian Perkins, Tom Yu, and Jacob Zlotnitsky on the child seat wheelchair mount.
Ziglar equipped the teams with metal conduit, Maker Pipe connectors, and miscellaneous fasteners and they fashioned a simple framework that mounts to the front of King’s wheelchair. This rectangular frame supports a rear-facing child safety seat so that King can wheel through his neighborhood with his new son, Phoenix Royce King, along for the ride.
The resulting designs are available for others to adopt for themselves, so the Bullis maker lab team’s effort will reach beyond the school’s community with other potential beneficiaries. The design is licensed on Creative Commons, so it is free for use with attribution to the Bullis Innovation Technology Lab (BITlab).
“This is open-source manufacturing,” Zigler told Bullis Magazine. “This is truly skill used in service of others, direct community service that will benefit not only Chelsie and Jeremy King and their little son, but others with similar needs looking for a safe and affordable solution.”
The students’ efforts have already been recognized by awards. The wheelchair-infant seat project designed by students Gordon, Beach, Walker, and McDuffie, won the Maker-Pipe Build of the Month competition for March, while WheeStroll, designed by students Zlotnitsky, Espinoza, Murphy, Anzelone, Perkins, and Yu, won two first-place awards in the Printlab Make:able Challenge. It named WheeStroll the “Best Inspirational Story” and the “Best Showcase of Iterative Design,” in the age 14-18 category.
“We are so grateful to Matt Zigler and his Making for Social Good class,” said teacher Chelsie King. “They jumped at the chance to take on this challenge for their trimester project. We feel extremely lucky and so thankful to have these resources available to us. Family walks commence!”
“The students especially enjoyed this maker project, because this time they could see their end result helping a family they know,” observed Zigler. “The true beauty of these two wheelchair projects is that they are out there being used now, and can be created for other wheelchair-bound new parents with few tools at a low cost.”