High School Roboticists Design Device To Help Muscular Dystrophy Student Open Locker

By Nick Venable | 8 years ago

botThere’s a lot of negative news out there, and a lot of it has to do with backwards-thinking people in government. But every once in a while, positive science news slips through the cracks, and it gets a little easier to remember just how virtuous humankind can be.

At Michigan’s Pinckney Community High School, a student named Nick Torrance is now able to open his locker for the very first time. It wasn’t hidden at the end of a rainbow or anything. Torrance suffers from muscular dystrophy, and attends school in a specialized wheelchair. Amy Uphouse helps the 18-year-old Torrance become more independent in her role as a Livingston Educational Service Agency occupational therapist. It was her idea to formulate a way for Torrance to open his locker, and after an outside search for a method came up short, she looked within the school itself for an answer.

Specifically, she turned to the school’s robotics instructor Sean Hickman. Holy shit, a high school robotics instructor! Two of Hickman’s students, Micah Stuhldreher and Wyatt Smrcka, won first place at the 2012 SkillsUSA national robotics competition, and they’re returning to defend that honor this year. Obviously, they were tasked with the challenge, and after almost a year of trial and error — including switching from a relay device to a computerized one — they succeeded in their goal, and now all it takes for Torrance to open the locker is a wave of the hand. Granted, a wave of the hand is a challenge in and of itself to anyone suffering from muscular dystrophy, but you know what I mean. Check out the device in action below.

The Society of American Military Engineers awarded the boys a $1,500 mini-grant to create a few other devices, which Uphouse is also behind. Smells like a worthy Kickstarter project to me.


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