A group of high school students at Bullis School in Potomac, Maryland, recently won two international awards for inventing and designing a device enabling people in wheelchairs to push a baby stroller. They came up with the design to help one of their teachers. Chelsie King reached out to the head of the school’s technology lab Matt Zigler for ideas on ways to help make it easier for her disabled husband Jeremy to care for their 4 month old.
King’s husband had undergone brain surgery three years earlier, which left him with numerous physical challenges. Some of them affected his speech and his balance, which meant he would need to use a wheelchair. “ When we found out we were expecting, we kind of immediately jumped into ‘OK, how he is going to do certain things for our baby that normal parents don’t have to think about?’” King said. “And one of the things that we really couldn’t find was a way to enjoy walks with our son.” They scoured the internet and came up short. Then King remembered that Matt Zigler, head of the school’s Innovation and Technology Lab taught a class that made things for social good.
Zigler presented the challenge to his students. “It seemed like sort of the perfect challenge for this class. One, it was great to have it as a challenge, but two, it was great that it was somebody in our community that could benefit from it,” Zigler said. The class was also touched by the challenge and interviewed the Kings virtually to get a better understanding of their needs.
Over the course of several weeks, the teams refined their ideas. The students designed custom brackets and shaped aluminum maker pipe to secure a stroller and wheelchair together. Prototypes for the WheeStroll, as they call it, were made using a 3D printer. Jeremy said the device is a godsend because he’s now able to enjoy the simple pleasure of taking a stroll with his family. “I never thought I’d be able to do something like this safely,” he said. “I feel wonderful. I feel ecstatic.”
“The first time we were able to take it out into our neighborhood just the three of us, it was amazing,” King said. “So, it was a match made in heaven with what we needed and with what Matt does in his classes.” The WheeStroll not only helped change the Kings’ lives, but it also changed the students who created it because they were able to see the impact their design had on the King’s day to day life.