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Image: A wheelchair accessible swing in a park in Malta.

Engineering Students Build a Wheelchair Swing in a Neighborhood Park

This article by Bonnie Riva Ras originally appeared on Goodnet.

One of the  joys of being a child is the freedom to soar on swings. From little ones being pushed to grade schoolers who can swing alone, the feeling of flying and freedom is a cherished part of childhood and beyond.

Now, Axtell, Texas resident Tristan Lee, 20, recently took a ride on a wheelchair swing that he inspired. Lee was born with spinal muscular atrophy type 2 and he uses a wheelchair, reported the Waco Tribune. The swing, situated in a community park, was designed and built by a student led collaboration.

Axtell is a rural community of 2,000 people that is located near Waco. The accessible swing was designed and built by a student-led collaboration in partnership with the local community that raised the necessary funds.

The Swing4Smiles project

This project was driven by  Axtell resident Jeff Lehrmann. He was an integral part of bringing together a coalition between students from the Baylor University Engineering Department in Waco, several departments from the Texas State Technical College (TSTC) also located in Waco, and the Axtell local community.

“That’s why I like working on these types of projects,” Baylor adjunct professor James Bates told the Waco Tribune. “The students are really motivated because they see it’s going to impact the life of an individual or community.”

Image: A Facebook post from Baylor School of Engineering and Computer Science. The caption reads: Last fall, two teams of Baylor Mechanical Engineering students designed a large wheelchair swing, which was then constructed by Texas State Technical College. On Thursday, the Swing 4 Smiles project was completed at a dedication in Axtell, 13 miles northeast of campus.

The swing was several months in the making. In the fall of 2021, Baylor students began making mock-up designs for the wheelchair accessible swing, according to a news release from the university. One group worked on designing the structure and another group worked on the platform.

The designs were used by TSTC students in the spring of 2022 to build the swing. “By bringing their ideas to professors at TSTC, the Baylor students were able to craft a design that not only met specific requirements and codes, but was also practical to build,” Bates said in the news release.

Design challenges

Leonard Walker, a 2022 Baylor graduate who worked on the swing said that the design teams had to overcome many challenges, especially for the scaffold and the section that actually holds the wheelchair.

“There’s hundreds and thousands of different types of disabilities, so not every child is the same,” Walker told the Waco Tribune. “So the challenging part was trying to make a design that was all-purpose. We need to keep every child safe while also maintaining that fun factor.”

But the most inspiring part of building the swing was the community collaboration according to Bates. “There were probably over a hundred people who had a thumbprint on this, either through the building or getting the playground together… they all came together for a common cause, to help out some kids that have some unique challenges in the community,” he said.

“And that’s just so refreshing, especially today where everything seems to be going crazy to know that, in the heart of it, everybody wants the same thing.” Now children and the young at heart can use the swing to soar.

  • Goodnet

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Published: September 9, 2022

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