A group of high school students from Germantown, Maryland, helped this new father with impaired mobility walk with his newborn son by inventing a “wheelchair-stroller.”
After Jeremy King, 37, underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor three years ago, he began experiencing physical challenges, including balance issues. Although he can walk, he can’t do so safely while carrying a child.
When he and his wife, Chelsie, 32, found out they were having a baby in June 2020, the two immediately thought about how they would take their child out on walks and help him with other activities.
They researched how to care for a baby as a disabled parent, but unfortunately, resources on the subject were very limited.
Chelsie, a drama teacher and adviser, then asked help from Matt Zigler, her fellow teacher at Bullis School. The latter teaches a class called “Making for Social Good,” where students design products that will have a positive social impact.
Chelsie hoped they would be able to develop a device they can attach to Jeremy’s wheelchair that will allow him to walk their baby, even with his impaired mobility.
Matt then told his students about the challenge and waited to see what they would come up with.
“The idea of the course is to start out by trying to understand the problem, so we did interviews with the family,” he 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 class was separated into two groups: one worked on an attachment that would connect an infant car seat to Jeremy’s wheelchair, and another worked on a device that would connect an entire stroller to his chair.
The idea behind this is to allow Jeremy to walk with his child, no matter what age he was.
The 10 students used their school’s MakerSpace to 3D print parts and bought the others from Home Depot to build attachments. They also borrowed a wheelchair from a school nurse to use as a dummy for weight testing and other things.
The students checked in with Jeremy throughout the process to ask him questions and get their opinions—a gesture that meant a lot to the new dad.
“It was certainly emotional seeing the process and everything that went into this,” he said. “I really feel the students took all my concerns to heart when creating the prototypes.”
Aside from helping the Kings, the students were able to create an affordable and accessible “wheelchair-stroller” design that could be replicated at other MakerSpaces across the world so that other families with disabilities can use it.
According to Matt, anyone who’s a bit handy could make these attachments using cheap materials and tools. The instructions for how to build them are also available online.
The students finished the designs for the car seat attachment in early March, and Chelsie and Jeremy tested it out with their son, Phoenix, a few weeks after he was born.
“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.”
Chelsie initially thought the project would only be a personal favor that Matt helped them with, but she’s glad that it turned into something much bigger.
“I love the idea that these students got this project and it’ll be something long lasting,” she said. “I know that they’ll remember that for years to come, which is all you can hope for as an educator.”
Kudos to these students and their teacher for developing this valuable device! Watch the video below to learn more about this story.
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