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Classroom Happenings: Designed to Help

The Steward School
Students create functional wheelchair and walker accessories 
In Upper School Science Teacher Kristen Householder’s Biomedical Design course, eleventh graders have spent the semester sharpening their research and critical-thinking skills and exploring biomedical engineering, bioethics, and human-centered design. 

Most recently, the class designed prototypes to help Arie, the daughter of Tiffany Goodman (Steward’s diversity, equity, and inclusion coordinator), more easily navigate the world. Four-year-old Arie was born 15 weeks early, resulting in symptoms resembling cerebral palsy; she wears leg braces and often uses a walker to get around. Ms. Goodman uses a specially designed wheelchair to transport Arie when the two are out and about. Although the walker and wheelchair are high-tech and collapsible, they have limitations.

Ideas + Feedback
Ms. Householder’s students met with Ms. Goodman and Arie several times during the semester. During their first meeting, the students listened intently as Ms. Goodman talked about the challenges she and other parents face when transporting a child in a wheelchair.

“Arie must learn many skills to be successful in kindergarten, including carrying her lunch, maneuvering around a classroom, and even asking for help,” Ms. Goodman explained. “Adaptive equipment can help her to increase her autonomy.” 

In subsequent classes, the students worked individually or in teams to design items that could be added to Arie’s walker or wheelchair to make her day-to-day life a bit easier. For their final meeting with Ms. Goodman, the students presented their prototypes in class. 

Cameron Berryman ’24 designed a special tray for Arie’s walker; his computer presentation was created with Tinkercad, which helps users design in 3D. 

“The tray is in two pieces that individually connect to two sides of the walker and clip into a hole to keep it steady,” said Cameron. The tray includes a mini cup. “When not in use, the tray would fold downward and swing to the side of the walker to minimize bulk,” explained Cameron. 

Ms. Goodman’s feedback to Cameron will help him tweak his design. “She advised me to move the place where the rod goes closer to the sides of the walker so that Arie could reach them more easily,” said Cameron, who found the design process fascinating. “I had to consider both the structure of the walker and the person using it,” he said. “Accessibility is key!” Other prototypes included crossbars to hold backpacks and umbrellas; cup holders; and a crocheted bag to carry various items. 

Like all Spartans, Ms. Householder’s students are learning in an environment that encourages meaningful connections. 

“I was happy to see how excited the students were to engage with Arie and Ms. Goodman as they became invested in the project,” said Ms. Householder. “This opportunity to understand real-life applications of the design process was an excellent way to facilitate the importance of empathy and respecting individuals no matter their differences.”


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