Cool Schools: Penn High School students build special scooter for boy with joint disease

Cool Schools: Penn High School students build special scooter for boy with joint disease

MISHAWAKA, Ind. –-Students at Penn High School are using their math and science skills to build better lives across the community.

Right now, students on the school’s robotic team are in the middle of a project for a 4th grade student named Isaiah.

Isaiah has something called Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita, or AMC, which causes decreased flexibility in his joints. This can add challenges to daily activities both at home and at school.

Isaiah’s mom, Tonya Towne, says it has especially been affecting him during gym class at school when using scooter boards.

“It’s hard for him to bend his knees, to move like the other kids, so that was an issue,” said Towne.

So students at Penn stepped in to create a solution.

“We have an attachment that we put on to the scooter boards that they have at school so he can have a little more surface area to use,” said McKenna Hillson-Smith, a senior at the high school.

The students are now on their second prototype, designing attachments and grips to make it easier for Isaiah to use the scooter boards.

“Just knowing that I’m making his life a lot more fun and a lot easier is the best part for me,” said Alex Pippin, a junior at Penn High School.

This is the second prototype the students have designed.

Robotics Coach Jim Langfeldt says everything that is made is customized by the students, which helps utilize math, science and design skills.

“Nothing that we design and build is available anywhere,” said Langfeldt. “We have to come up with our ideas and come up with a solution but it’s really customized to the person that we’re working for, and I think that makes it more special.”

The project is made possible through a charitable organization that the robotics team set up. It’s called Mission to Engineer, and it works to connect those with resources to those who need assistive technology. 

For some students the project means a jump start on their future.

“My major next year will be biomedical engineering,” said Hillsdon-Smith. “A lot of people pursuing this degree path don’t have the hands on experience that I’ve been able to have with this program.”

There are still tweaks to be made to the scooter board project.

“We’re making it so that it holds on to the actual scooter better, possibly adding spring pins, possibly adding something else,” said Pippin.

But it’s a project helping students grow in their learning and in their community.

“When you see a group of students get excited around building something for someone, it really is inspiring,” said Langfeldt.

And it’s a project creating better futures one prototype at a time.

“I think it’ll be great that he can have something that he can participate with everybody else,” said Towne.

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