Liberty High School Students Create Custom Wheelchair for Toddler

Mary LaPak is the director of community relations at Wentzville School District in Wentzville, Missouri.

A group of Liberty High School (LHS) students in the Wentzville School District put their skills and compassion to work for the daughter of a school staff member by designing a custom wheelchair for her.

One of the Project Lead The Way (PLTW) classes Vince Redman teaches at LHS is Engineering Design and Development, a capstone course that encourages students to choose an engineering-related problem to solve. Mr. Redman reached out to his co-workers seeking project ideas for his students.

One of the responses came from LHS Instructional Assistant Melanie Willis, who shared that her two-year-old daughter, Faith, who has spina bifida, is too small to fit in a full-size wheelchair. Melanie had seen blueprints for a small wheelchair online that could help with Faith’s mobility.

The class took on the challenge and sought donations for materials. LHS students Nick Beseda, Bryan Eplett, Wyatt Lake, Hamza Mansoor, Jimmy Moore, Josh Parmentier, and Sam Schuettenberg designed and built the custom wheelchair, which they presented to Faith and Melanie.

“When I found out the students were interested in helping our daughter Faith become more mobile, I was so excited,” Willis said. “Not only because it would help her, but because the students were so willing and eager to help someone that they hadn't even met. Their thoughtfulness made my day and put a huge smile on Faith's face too. She loves it so much!”

Engineering Design and Development is part of the PLTW curriculum that has been offered in the Wentzville School District for the past decade. It includes specialty classes in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science. For the past two years, the district has hosted the PLTW State Conference, which has attracted over 1,000 educators to the WSD to collaborate on ways to engage more students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

We are exceptionally proud of our students and staff, who think full circle with projects that can benefit someone in their own school. We are also proud to be leading the way in STEM education by offering PLTW courses that provide real-world problem solving opportunities for our students, equipping them with valuable tools and experience to be college and career ready.

The group of students were recognized before the WSD Board of Education for their outstanding project and compassion. In addition, the students were featured in this story on the local CBS affiliate.

PLTW’s blog is intended to serve as a forum for ideas and perspectives from across our network. The opinions expressed are those of each guest author.