• Baylor engineering students’ project was for more than just a grade

    A degree from Baylor is more than a ticket to a job. It’s more than just four years of classes, homework, tests and projects. It’s about learning leadership and service alongside academic excellence — and that’s exactly how professors in Baylor’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS), for instance, are developing their students.

    It began last year, when Baylor professor Ian Gravagne assigned a unique senior project: design and build a motorized swing for Camille, an 8-year-old with a development-limiting neurological disorder. ECS students continued the trend this spring. Their 2017 project? Customizing a motorized chair for 2-year-old Emmeline, who was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) at 11 weeks old:

    SMA is a genetic disease that affects the part of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. The independence we get just from being able-bodied isn’t given to people like Emme. Learning to crawl and walk isn’t as easy when your legs won’t listen to you. Playing with other toddlers isn’t always possible. Running, jumping, dancing, swimming, lifting… It’s highly likely all of that is off the table.

    So a team of Baylor ECS students — five mechanical engineering majors, plus two electrical and computer engineering majors — built Emme something that would give her more independence. They took a lightweight chair frame, installed two motors to drive the back wheels, and attached two joysticks (one in the front for Emme, and one in the back for a parental override). Now, instead of observing life from a distance, Emme can participate in it.

    “It’s really nice to be able to take some of the knowledge we’ve learned in the classroom and actually apply it to a real-world situation and use it to make a difference,” says team member and recent Baylor graduate Nate Freeman. “It’s joyful to see the difference we’ve been able to make in their life and see it all come together.”

    Sic ’em, Baylor engineers!

    You might also like:
    * Baylor Engineers with a Mission use their talents to serve others (June 2017)
    * Baylor students make new friends following ‘a wonderful act of kindness’ (July 2016)
    * “Camille’s Big Girl Swing” – A Baylor engineering student project with heart (June 2016)

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