GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — At 5 years old, Dakota Tomac wants to do things himself. He doesn’t want his cerebral palsy to require others to carry his book or figure out how he will get his lunch on the table.
His independent spirit got a boost with a tool created by Grand Valley State University students, thanks to an idea from a physical therapist at the Kent Intermediate School District.
The students made a tray that fits onto Dakota’s walker so he could move around at school and carry his iPad, which helps him communicate.
“It’s so nice he doesn’t have to depend on someone else to bring his words with him,” said Dakota’s mother, Angel Tomac. “Without the tray, his aids would follow him with the pad. And then maybe there would be no place to set it. He feels more independent now.”
KISD physical therapist Michelle Gallery asked GVSU’s engineering department about designing the tray, to hold not only an iPad, but his lunch or anything else he might want to take from here to there while his hands are pushing the walker.
John Farris, associate professor of engineering, turned the request into a learning project for students.
“We were thrilled to get students working with real clients,” Farris said.
For Adam DeVries, creating prototypes and ending up with a finished product was a senior project this past year, before he graduated with a mechanical engineering degree.
“The goal was a universal design to fit any walker and to do it at a low cost because medical devices can be pretty expensive,” DeVries said.
He was satisfied with the clear acrylic tray that can slant or lay flat, with pockets and a cup holder on the side.
Alex Filush, a junior at GVSU, worked on issues with fitting the tray onto walkers of many designs.
“It was a good experience to see the process of going back and forth with the client and getting feedback,” he said. “Then it turned out to be a useful tool for Dakota in everyday life.”
Mia Ernest, 5, (pictured) will also use the tray as she starts kindergarten this year.
“It’s already helped with her posture,” said Mia’s mother, Sarah Ernest.
The tray gets Mia to safely walk upright as she uses an iPad or looks at a book. It also means she does not have to find a table or chair to use things that require her hands.
Gallery said the trays will help students with disabilities to focus more on education and the social aspects of school, rather than the logistics of moving around.
Farris said the tray could turn into a commercial product to help students with disabilities everywhere.
“I envision shepherding that along because of the demonstrated demand,” he said.
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Special trays designed by Michigan college students help students with disabilities tote their stuff
Grand Rapids Press:
Posted by BA Haller at 8:17 PM