All-female engineering team at high school inventing device for the disabled

BERLIN, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A new invention is in the works at Berlin High School.

The device will allow people who are disabled to still be able to participate in physical activities. It’s being created by young, female engineers.

The young women are in grades nine through 12. They all have one thing in common: a passion to be inventors and to make a difference.

“Just the idea behind it,” engineer Amanda Despart said. “The idea of being able to help someone in need and wouldn’t be able to participate in a physical education class without our help.”

Berlin High School was one of 14 schools in the country to be selected to take on the challenge as part of a grant given by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The young women had to think of an everyday problem in the real world and create something to help solve it.

They were inspired to find a solution after seeing one of their classmates in a wheelchair who was not able to play in gym class like everyone else.

“I think it’s really important for people who are wheelchair bound to be able to feel like they can participate in activities like everybody else can,” engineer Melanie DeLaurentis said.

Working long days and hours, the four-part device was created.

It contains a control console, the level launch, the robot chassis, and the mechanical arm. Together, they create one device that will help someone in a wheelchair be able to do simple tasks such as throw a small object back and forth.

“I think anytime there’s an opportunity to pursue a device that would help someone else out, that’s what we’re here for,” Technology Education teacher Dawn Wetmore said. “That’s the purpose of us from a humanitarian perspective, and it’s an amazing opportunity.

While the device is not finished, it’s been worked on for months. The challenge has helped the young women learn about engineering on a mechanical perspective as well as software development and electric.

The engineers said the beginning phase of the project was the most difficult, but they’ve come a long way.

“There have been different difficulties, including when we started making the coding to be able to have it move,” Despart said. “That all got erased, so we all had to start over.”

The lever launch still needs a motor that resets the arm, and the bottom of the control console needs to be reinstalled.

“It’s not something new for me, but it is really unique and really cool to be able to do this with the girls from my school,” engineer Emma Woolley said.

The device will be tested for use in the school, and the girls are looking into a patent process to be able to sell the product.

Once it’s complete in May, it will be shipped to MIT to be presented in June at the 10th annual Eureka Fest.

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