Students Create Prototype for Wheelchair Cleaning System

We all know the importance of technology within the disability community. It helps us create our accessible vans and the other independence products available on the marketplace. Without scientists, innovators, entrepreneurs and dreamers we wouldn’t have the technological advances that we do.

Now more than ever before we can see the importance that education has in shaping the way our future will be, which is why we love hearing about students making a difference for people with disabilities and their caretakers.

One great example of this is the work one sixth grade class is doing to create a wheelchair cleaning system.

Starting with a STEAM Project

Nancy Doucimo-Garcia is a science teacher in Charlton, Massachusetts who wanted to incorporate the studies of science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) into one project for her class. With the assistance of the school district’s STEAM Director, Karen Ares, Garcia applied for a Biogen Foundation grant that would help make a full-scale project possible.

Once awarded, she set out to make the “Engineering an Assistive Device for the Handicapped” project a reality by challenging her students to find a problem and develop a solution.

The Problem and Solution

Knowing the challenges of cleaning a wheelchair, as a caretaker herself, Garcia and her sixth grade class saw a problem that existed not only for wheelchair users but their caretakers, as well. So, they set out to make a prototype of a wheelchair cleaning system that would be effective and easy to use.

In addition to building a working prototype, students were challenged to learn as much as they could about the human nervous and muscular systems, the causes of paralysis and the abilities and needs of wheelchair users. They also studied wheelchair elements such as sizes, configurations and the areas that need to be cleaned.

From Concept to Prototype

Students started the project by creating drawings of what their cleaning system would look like. Then, they were given a budget of $50 to create a small-scale cardboard example. From there, the students created presentations to present their ideas. Then, the class took ideas from each example to create one final design to put into implementation.

With help from a nearby vocational technical high school, the students created a final, full-scale working prototype. The design featured a ramp covered in astroturf, similar to what you’d see at a minigolf course. The ramp was lined with bumpers covered in brushes to complete the cleaning action.

The months of hard work was completed just before the end of the school year, and a fellow wheelchair-using student even tested the prototype for the class.

What do you think of this innovative idea? Would this type of device be useful for you or someone you care for? Comment below to join the conversation!

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