School Pupils Transform New Dad’s Wheelchair Into a Baby Carrier

More new parents can now enjoy taking their bundle of joy for a walk.

Aug 2, 2021
Special Collections: CHANGEMAKERS
School Pupils Transform New Dad’s Wheelchair Into a Baby Carrier | More new parents can now enjoy taking their bundle of joy for a walk.

Which parent-to-be isn’t looking forward to proudly taking their new bundle of joy out for a walk? For parents in wheelchairs, however, taking their newborns for a stroll in the fresh air presents a whole new set of challenges. But mom-to-be, Chelsie King, whose husband Jeremy gets around in a wheelchair, decided that things could be better for them when their baby arrived. So she kickstarted a search for a solution that would be life-changing for them both.

Since undergoing an operation to remove a brain tumor, Jeremy King is unsteady on his feet and uses a wheelchair, reports the Washington Post. But his positive-thinking wife, Chelsie King, a drama teacher at Bullis School in Maryland, USA, was thinking about the future, even before their son, Phoenix, was born, explains CNN. She didn’t like that her husband’s excitement was tinged with apprehension about how he could help parent his new baby safely and joyfully.

When an internet search on design ideas for wheelchair adaptive strollers proved disappointing, Mrs. King decided to approach Matt Zigler, a fellow Bullis teacher with a can-do attitude. Mr. Zigler heads the school’s creative technology lab where students are encouraged to take part in hands-on projects. 

Mrs. King asked him if he could build something for the couple as a personal favor. It was Mr. Zigler who decided to open this challenge to his Social Good class so they could put their heads together to help the couple.

“I teach a class called Making for Social Good and this project was a perfect opportunity for my students to gain empathy for members of our community and create a design that made their lives better,” he told Goodnet. 

And mentored by Mr. Zigler, the group of talented high schoolers began to brainstorm solutions. The class’s ten students initially came up with more questions than ideas. These were related to factors like the couple’s residential location and its terrain. But there were far greater challenges, As Jacob Zlotnitsky, one of the students explained: 

"The hardest part of the project was putting ourselves in the shoes of a person with physical disabilities,"  he told CNN. "To achieve a successful project we had to use empathy and really make sure we were thinking about everything a person with Mr. King's disabilities would be forced to consider."

After their early-stage blueprints were ready, they interviewed the couple. This gave them a better grasp of the design requirements of their future device. They learned that it had to be safe, easy to maneuver and something that Mr. King would be able to attach and detach unaided.

As their prototypes were refined, the students thought out of the box to continue perfecting them:

They used their school's MakerSpace to 3D-print several parts,  and purchased more from Home Depot to build the attachments. Their school nurse lent them a wheelchair to use as a model for things like weight testing, the group shared with Good Morning America.

In just a few months, the group’s joint effort saw them create an amazing solution allowing people with impaired mobility to walk their babies independently,  just in time for the birth of the couple’s  son.  

They produced two key attachments. The WheeStroll Wheelchair Stroller Attachment for newborns uses a metal structure attachment to connect a car seat to a wheelchair. The WheeStroll Wheelchair Stroller Adapter, meanwhile, uses 3D-printed parts to attach a stroller to a wheelchair designed for older babies.

And the joy this product brought to the grateful couple is priceless. 

"It was a very emotional experience because I never thought I would be able to do something safely like taking a walk with my child," Jeremy shared. "It has allowed me to experience things that I would not have been able to do before having the WheeStroll. It allows us as a family to have more freedom of movement." reports CNN.

And sharing the benefits of their invention, (which has already won two international design awards) so that it can help other new parents with impaired mobility is also important. As Mr. Zigler told Goodnet: “One of the goals of the class is showing students how designs can be shared and recreated in workshops or Makerspaces around the world to make sure great ideas can get to those who need them.”

This is why the WheeStroll design, instructions, materials list, step-by-step photos and an instructional video are already available online. Mr. Zigler explains to the Washington Post that they have already received many messages from people planning to recreate the product. 

Team member, Jacob Zlotnitsky, spoke of his joy at helping design something that meaningfully improves the life of a fellow human being to CNN: "It made me realize what's important in life, and part of that is benefiting our communities and being able to empathize with others… I feel fortunate to have been able to take a class that has allowed me to make a difference in people's lives."

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Daphne has a background in editing, writing and global trends. She is inspired by trends seeing more people care about sharing and protecting resources, enjoying experiences over products and celebrating their unique selves. Making the world a better place has been a constant motivation in her work.
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