37-year-old Jeremy King from Germantown, Maryland, is grateful to a group of experts who made it possible for him to walk along with his newborn son despite having a mobility impairment.
It's quite impressive to see how far we have come in terms of technological advancements. Devices that help impact our lives positively have been a boon and for a father it's everything. 37-year-old Jeremy King from Germantown, Maryland, is grateful to a group of experts who made it possible for him to walk along with his newborn son despite having a mobility impairment. But what's surprising is the fact that these so-called experts are a group of high school students. The idea to build something for King came to these 10 students when they learned that the man was expecting a child. They didn't want anything holding him back from having all the experiences as a new father.
Three years ago King had undergone surgery for a brain tumor which eventually resulted in physical challenges like not being able to balance himself. Then last year, in June 2020, he and his 32-year-old wife, Chelsie, learned that they were pregnant. While their excitement knew no bounds, the couple couldn't help but worry about their roles like how they would take their child out on walks and engage in other activities. "While he can walk, he can't do so safely carrying a child," his wife told Good Morning America. "So we jumped into, 'OK, what do we need in order for him to parent safely?' and honestly, not a whole lot came up -- there's just really not a ton of resources out there for disabled parents."
Looking for help, Chelsie- a drama teacher and advisor at Bullis School- turned to her colleague, Matt Zigler. She said the K-12 school teacher if he could assist them "come up with something that might attach to Jeremy's wheelchair." So he tasked his high school class called "Making for Social Good" with it. Apparently, he teaches this particular class where students design certain products that positively impact society. And when Chelsie came to him, he knew his students were the ones who could do something about it. "The idea of the course is to start out by trying to understand the problem, so we did interviews with the family," Zigler told GMA adding that King had tasked him with the challenge at the beginning of her trimester in November 2020.
"We talked to somebody at the local fire department who actually does infant car seat installation training to try to better understand how those things work," he added. 17-year-old Ibenka Espinoza, who had known Chelsie since eighth grade, says the interview phase of the experimental device was the best part as they got to learn a lot about the King family on a personal level. "It was a good experience to have because we could ask them questions," said Espinoza. "I think that was the most fun." As for 18-year-old Jacob Zlotnitsky, he revealed how everyone had their own ideas for the wheelchair attachment before created a 3D model of what they would look like. "We were all very goal-oriented. We were all focused on successfully making the best product we could in the amount of time we had," he told GMA.
Finally, two projects were shortlisted and the class was divided into two groups, one of which worked on the WheeStroll Stroller Attachment that connected an infant car seat to Jeremy King's wheelchair and the other focused on the WheeStroll Stroller Connector, which would connect an entire stroller to the wheelchair. "Children grow and they grow out of a car seat so we wanted Mr. King to be able to walk with his son no matter what age he was," noted Zlotnitsky. Using the school's MarkerSpace 3D printer and other attachments from Home Depot they created the seat.
They carefully checked if the device could bear the weight of the child by using cinder blocks and the thoroughness of their research and dedication touched Jeremy. "It was certainly emotional seeing the process and everything that went into this. I really feel the students took all my concerns to heart when creating the prototypes," he said. The goal of the students was not just to help the Kings but also to make an affordable and accessible design that could be created by other MakerSpaces around the world and help families with disabilities. "With fairly cheap materials and tools, somebody that's a little bit handy could make these for someone," noted Zigler, who revealed that the instructions to build the attachments are available online.
As for the King's project, the construction of both designs was completed in early March which was just in time for her due date. Jeremy and Chelsie welcoming their son Phoenix and eventually they both took the car seat attachment for a spin. "Using it was overwhelming because I never thought I would be able to do something like this with our son," said the father. "Most people can go out on a walk with their family but that is really difficult for me -- most people take that for granted." Chelsie is glad that this design will help other families like her's. "I love the idea that these students got this project and it'll be something long-lasting," she said. "I know that they'll remember that for years to come, which is all you can hope for as an educator."