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Engineering students helping children with disabilities through design

Tulane engineering students have partnered with the nonprofit organization Make Good to design wheelchairs for very small children.
Engineering students helping children with disabilities through design
Posted at 1:51 PM, Jan 03, 2024

Elijah Jack is now able to scoot around his home in the Baton Rouge, Louisiana area. He was born without a femur bone in one leg and a short femur in the other. The 19-month-old was unable to get around like most toddlers. That was until he became one of the first recipients of a chair specially designed for kids his size, created by a team of biomedical engineering students.

"If he sees his chair he knows that he's going in and he's just going to go ahead and say 'Hey I know what to do. I know to go with it' and if I take him out he's not going to be a happy camper," said Crystal Jack, Elijah's mother.

The college engineers partnered with the nonprofit organization Make Good and Israeli-based TOM Global, whose mission is to design new ways to help people with disabilities. 

Noam Platt, director of Make Good, says the Tulane project gives students a glimpse into how engineering can solve real-world challenges.

"For the students that I work with, I tell them this is just the beginning. I'm trying to open their eyes to kind of a lifelong passion that they'll have to solving these problems because once you see the problems, you see the scope of the problems and you can't really ignore them," said Platt.

Grad student and San Diego-area native Dylan Lucia tells The Associated Press the wheelchair work is the perfect marriage of his skills and his ambitions.

"A big goal of mine is always to help people, and that's part of the reason why I chose to be an engineer and specifically a biomedical engineer. Seeing that direct kind of patient feedback and seeing how much these were improving their lives and helping them become a more independent person — even as a small toddler. It was really, really endearing to see something like that and to see the positive change," said Lucia.

For Elijah's mother, the chair means she no longer has to carry him all day, giving them both a little independence.

"So I get a lot of things done now. Like I said we've come a long way, a long way, but I'm blessed to have him," said Jack. 

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