“Camille’s Big Girl Swing” — A Baylor engineering student project with heart
When 7-year-old Camille Whitt sat in her motorized swing for the first time, she paused for a brief second. Camille had long ago physically outgrown her old infant swing, but an undiagnosed neurological disorder has limited her development to the level of a 4- to 6-month-old — the age many children enjoy swings the most.
As Camille sat in her new chair for the first time, Baylor engineering students — who had designed the swing especially for her — waited off to the side, watching anxiously to see her reaction. They got their answer almost instantaneously. Camille can’t speak, but her approval came through loud and clear, thanks to a delighted squeal and laughter that wouldn’t stop.
The world of engineering isn’t often associated with emotion, laughter and glassy eyes, but it was at Baylor last month. “Camille’s Big Girl Swing,” a capstone project by Baylor engineering students, isn’t your average engineering project, just like Camille is more than just an average client. (Just watch the video, and you’ll likely experience the same emotions as the people there.)
Camille’s family knows there’s a lot they can do to help her enjoy life. Her father, Dr. Jason Whitt, is both a Baylor graduate (BA ’96, PhD ’08) and associate director of Baylor’s Institute for Faith and Learning. More than three years ago, a conversation with colleagues in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) set the wheels in motion to build something special for his daughter. Whitt explained that Camille loved the soothing rocking motion in the safety swings most infants enjoy, but she outgrew them. ECS professors saw an opportunity to help.
Every year, senior and graduate engineering students participate in a capstone project. They come together as a team to use their skills to meet a need. It’s more than a final project; it’s an opportunity to bless individuals or families with whom they can build a relationship. Through capstone projects, ECS students experience firsthand that their calling can be a mission to serve others. Building a swing for Camille was the perfect fit.
Design and construction of the swing provided plenty of challenges to solve. How could it continually rock at the correct speed? What needed to be done to keep her safe while in it? Could it hold the weight of a still-growing girl, and could the motor hold up? Even questions about Camille’s favorite color (purple) and movie characters (Disney princesses) were important. It took three teams tackling the swing for three semesters over a three-year period to get it just right. The 10 ECS students on this year’s team took the project across the finish line and watched Camille enjoy it for the first time.
For the Whitt family, it’s a life-changing gift that is incredibly meaningful.
“This was more than we ever anticipated it being,” says Dr. Whitt. “To all the students and faculty who worked on this, we are eternally grateful for your commitment, for your love, for your diligence in getting it done. It has made a difference to our family, and I know it’s made a difference in all the families’ lives. These students will be excellent engineers — engineers who will make a difference for God’s kingdom as they go from this place.”
Sic ’em, Camille Whitt and Baylor engineering students!
(Photo via KWTX/Madison Adams, BA ’15; video by GRNWRKS Media/Christian Green, BA ’14)