FOX 6 News WBRC Special


By Sarah Verser, Anchor/Reporter


ALABASTER, AL (WBRC) -

Caroline and Lilly are enjoying time in the swimming pool because of students at Thompson High School.

Engineering students designed and built aquatic wheelchairs to make it easier for her therapists or her parents to get her into the water safely.

Similar chairs on the market would cost her family thousands of dollars. But chairs like the one Thompson students made with everyday hardware supplies like PVC pipe cost just a fraction of that.

The ninth graders got into the water with Caroline and Lilly, watching, evaluating, trying to figure out how to make the chairs even better.

"They are looking for weaknesses, they are looking for things they can improve and then they are going to go back and redesigning the wheelchairs to make them more functional,” teacher Brian Copes said.

They want to know how to support the children's heads better.

"The one that floats isn't really that stable in the water. The way they recline, it's too straight for Lilly and Caroline to sit. They are too straight,” engineering student Alex Ruiz said.

It's another real world problem solved because of their teacher Copes.

"Once we get to a point where we think it's working well then we will probably look for the next project," Copes said.

Projects like a device that allows an adult to ride a bicycle side by side with a disabled person who wouldn't be able to do so without assistance.

He’s the same engineering teacher who taught students how to make all-terrain vehicles and prosthetic limbs and a portable power plant for poor and desolate people in a remote village in Honduras.

But right now, it means Lilly and Caroline don't have to just watch the action in the pool. They can be part of it.

"Helps us to learn what we can be doing in or future lives. Helps them out a lot and their parents and this possibly could be something that might help out millions of other children out there," Ruiz explained.

"To actually do something and see it like the kids use it and Lilly and Caroline use it, It really kind of hits you,” ninth grader Hope Smith added.

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