Creating machines for students with disabilities
by ELSIE HODNETT
Mar 02, 2013 | 3324 views |  0 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alex Brown and Timothy Hall demonstrate the roll-up grabber they designed for a student with disabilities to fit her needs. The roll-up grabber will pick up items from the floor and roll the item to her lap, a necessity because she has one usable arm.
Alex Brown and Timothy Hall demonstrate the roll-up grabber they designed for a student with disabilities to fit her needs. The roll-up grabber will pick up items from the floor and roll the item to her lap, a necessity because she has one usable arm.
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LINCOLN – High school students are using 21st Century skills to create complex machines to help students with disabilities.

“Lincoln High School has six Project-Based Learning (PBL) classrooms,” said Lincoln High School science teacher Shelby Reynolds. “In PBL, students go through an extended process of inquiry in response to a complex question, problem or challenge.”

Reynolds said PBL allows for student “voice and choice,” and the rigorous projects are carefully planned, managed and assessed to help students learn key academic content, practice 21st Century skills such as creativity, collaboration, communication and critical thinking, and create high-quality authentic products and presentations.

“The Simple Machine PBL challenge my students are working on answers the driving question: ‘How can we create a complex machine to help students with disabilities?’” she said.

Reynolds said the project applies to the Physical Science Alabama Course of Study Objective 7: Solving problems involving efficiency and mechanical advantage or simple machines.

“Most of the 131 students taking this class are freshmen,” she said. “The students were placed in diverse groups of three or four students.”

Reynolds said the students had to determine the role of each person within the group: Project Manager, Engineering Manager, Design Manager and Marketing Manager.

“More than 30 final products have been designed and built by the students,” she said.

Reynolds said the groups interviewed their “customer,” a student in the special education classroom, to discover which project would best benefit that student.

“Examples include reaching tools and iPad holders for students in wheelchairs,” she said.

Reynolds said all project work was completed during class time, and students were able to use leftover parts from the BEST Robotics competition, parts donated from the school shop and items they brought in themselves.

“The project was three weeks and two days long,” she said. “The students had work as a team and also individual assignments.”

One team included Timothy Hall, who severed as engineer and project manager, and Alex Brown, who was the design manager, created a roll-up grabber.

“We interviewed the student, who has one usable arm,” Timothy said. “With the straight grabber, she had to pick up items then let them drop into her lap. The roll-up grabber will work out better by bringing the item to her lap directly.”

Alex said he created a PowerPoint presentation and a brochure so people can read and see how the roll-up grabber was designed to fit the student’s needs.

“She will be able to use it when we are done,” he said.

Another group included project engineer Starr Key, project manager Noah Phillips, marketing manager Mahala Skinner and design manager Brittany Velasquez.

“We call our item the ‘swarm,’ which stands for swiveling arm,” Noah said.

Starr said their item is for a student who can’t verbally communicate, but has use of one arm and uses an iPad to communicate.

“We created an iPad stand to attach to her wheelchair, and swivel in for use and out when not in use,” she said.

Noah said he created the PowerPoint presentation, explaining how the swarm was created and oversaw the project to ensure everything worked out.

“I created a project brochure,” Mahala said. “I researched similar products to see if there is anything else out there like our product. There is, but those are very costly—too costly for the school system to provide.”

Brittany said she helped with the brochure, presentation and blueprint.

“I built the swarm out of PVC pipe and created a wooden iPad platform,” Starr said.

Reynolds said the projects were displayed for judging Friday. The customer will judge the final products to determine which ones can be used in their classroom.

“Our first place winner will get to accompany special education teacher Candace Gibson to the Talladega County Board of Education 21st Century Showcase in April and present their project,” she said.

The first place winners were Alec Gauldin, Micaela Bright and Savion Woods for a reaching device.

Second place winners were Blake Brooks, Janet Enchautegui and Joseph Atwell for a communication device.

Contact Elsie Hodnett at ehodnett@dailyhome.com.