October 21, 2015 — Through a unique program between University of Detroit Mercy (UDM) and University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy, a wheelchair-bound new mother is now able to push her baby with a custom-made stroller.
A lifelong paraplegic, Sharina Jones was shot at the age of 5 by another child playing with a gun. U of D Jesuit High senior Alden Kane took on the task of designing a stroller that Jones could use with her wheelchair.
The university works with U of D Jesuit students to complete college-level STEM research projects.
Jones reached out to the program director, Darrell Kleinke, after hearing that some of the program’s projects aim to meet the needs of disabled individuals through engineering.
"We recognized several years ago as we started doing projects with mechanical engineers, there's a lot of positive energy and ability. Meanwhile, in the community, there's a need for different types of products like the one for Sharina," said Kleinke.
Kane said he worked for several hours after school every day for six months to come up with the device — drawing plans, making prototypes and testing out different materials.
Fifteen potential designs were slowly whittled down to just one through trial and error and feedback from Kleinke and Jones.
The final result, made from lightweight stainless steel, clamps onto the chair and securely holds the baby's car seat.
Jones says Kane's stroller has given her a great deal of freedom, allowing her to shop at the mall, use public restrooms and go for walks with her son.
"It was extremely exciting and rewarding to see Sharina using it," Kane said. "Throughout the project, being the only person working on this, I was always wondering if I was going to have it done by the time her child came along ... but meeting the due date and having a great working design was just an extremely rewarding sight."
Dominic Coccitti-Smith, the instructor for Kane's high school STEM research course, said the partnership with University of Detroit Mercy has been a wonderful opportunity for his students to grow and learn.
"Alden's passion for his quest for innovation and improving the lives of our community members came together through this project," Coccitti-Smith said. "As the instructor for this course, I have great confidence in the future through seeing these wonderful projects that high school students are completing."
Kane's plans for the future include studying biomedical engineering or aerospace in college next year. He hopes to patent his design and pursue having it mass-produced by a stroller or wheelchair company.
"It's great to have served Mrs. Jones — as one person, it's had a great impact on her life,” he said. “But imagine the impact that it could have on hundreds or thousands of lives." [Sources: Fox 2 Detroit, Today Parents]