High school teacher, students help wheelchair bound child using a 3D printer

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Tuesday, November 21, 2023
Child gets wheelchair accessories thanks to high school class
When 3-year-old Cole needed accessories added to his wheelchair, his family got in contact with an engineering teacher who would provide a real-life example to his students.

BAYTOWN, Texas -- A project that started as a plea for help on Facebook has turned into a solution for a young child who is wheelchair-bound.

Cole was born with a rare chromosomal condition, where one of his chromosomes was partially deleted. His mother, Melissa Jones, said only a few hundred children have this condition around the world. Because of this, he has struggled to build muscle. However, his parents, Melissa and Zach Jones have worked hard with Cole to make sure their son gets stronger every day, overcoming the odds.

"He's his own person. We celebrate every little milestone, or what we call 'inchstone along his journey," said Melissa.

Cole loves using his wheelchair to get around. His parents said he enjoys feeling the wind hit his face and feeling the wheels on the chair for sensory stimulation. While at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, they realized Cole was touching the tires, then putting his hands on his face and in his mouth. "For that reason, he wasn't able to enjoy his wheelchair," said Zach. "We couldn't take him anywhere and have him safely use it."

Zach decided to put out a call for help on Facebook. "To my engineering-minded friends, Cole loves his wheelchair and loves the feeling of his hands on the actual tires as they spin," Zach posted. Zach added there aren't accessories to prevent Cole's hands from getting dirty, asking "does anybody have any ideas for something more permanent?"

That's when a friend of Zach's put him in contact with Jonathan Richards, an engineering teacher at Robert E. Lee High School in Goose Creek ISD.

Richards and his ninth grade students worked for weeks to design accessories. From there, they were able to use a 3D printer to bring the work to life. "I've never been one to not accept a challenge," said Richards.

Richards said in his six years of teaching engineering, he has spent a lot of time trying to find projects to find a way to make something that applies to the real world.

After weeks of hard work and collaboration, Richards and the engineering students were able to present Cole and the Jones family with armrest style accessories. "I'm really proud that we got the chance to help him and his family," said one student.

Because of this collaborative effort, Cole is now able to enjoy his wheelchair without having to worry about getting his hands dirty. "The feeling that comes to mind for me is just very blessed. Honestly, I had kind of figured we had given up. There wasn't going to be a solution," said Melissa. "It's just really cool that we have these creative thinkers out there and technology to do that."