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Engineering Project Becomes Game Changer for Teacher with MS

April 5, 2017

Shawnee Mission Northwest High School (located in Kansas) teacher Rebecca Schultz is a fiercely independent person who doesn’t like to ask others for help. Unfortunately, that was no longer an option for her when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis last August. She began using a wheelchair to get around and received help from students throughout the school day.

That is, until five students from Olathe East High School unexpectedly came into her life as part of a project for a national engineering competition. The group of students created a portable desk and cart that attaches to Schultz’s wheelchair and helps make her daily life much easier.

“I got my independence back,” Schultz said. “I don’t have to rely on anybody. It may not be a big thing to some people, but it is for someone like me who doesn’t like to ask for help.”

Cameron Wasinger, Isaac Taylor, Holden Hartley, Matt Reichmuth and Tanner Williams are all students in Olathe East’s 21st Century Design Academy and members of the team Best Overall Solutions. They are one of five high school teams nationwide, in addition to three college teams to make it to the finals of the SourceAmerica Design Challenge, an engineering competition aimed to help people with disabilities in the workplace, which takes place April 7 in Washington, D.C.

“There were so many really good projects,” Hartley said. “But in the end her cart didn’t just help her with her job, it helped her be more independent.”

The team found Schultz after contacting physical therapists in the area. After they heard her dilemma, that it often took up to 12 different students to transport her books and supplies to six different classrooms each day, they quickly went to work.

The team visited Schultz at her school so they could see how she would have to use the cart day-to-day to get around the building. What started as just a way to transport items quickly evolved into something more.

“She was just looking for something to cart supplies around, but we combined it with a desk to make it more efficient,” Wasinger said. “Now, she can also work at the desk.”

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