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Inclusivity and super speed: West Michigan Aviation students engineer scooter for boy with SMA

Scooter makes moving in manual chair easier
Kingston at school with chair.jpg
Posted at 7:37 AM, Jun 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-15 07:58:10-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — High school seniors used their skills to change a little boy's life.

Kingston Wilson has spinal muscular atrophy. He gets around in a manual wheelchair that he pushes himself. That is a challenge for him, especially to move around quickly and keep up with his friends.

Engineering students at West Michigan Aviation Academy created all new tech to get Kingston moving at super speed.

He already loves his new scooter. He hooked it up to the front of his wheelchair to get around school.

"He'll be able to stay in line with his friends. Usually, he gets a head start when they go class to class or to lunch or to specials he is able to keep up with his friends so they give him a head start," said Savannah Nanninga-Jensen, Kingston's Mom.

Nanninga-Jensen can't help but smile when she watches her little guy zip around. The engineering seniors designed, built, and engineered the power for this scooter.

"He has 2 pegs that come down by like the front wheels and they will slot into these holes. And then there's a power switch here and a go switch here. So he just has to push that button and that will bring him along," said Matthew Klynstra, West Michigan Academy graduate who helped design the scooter.

Klynstra continued, "he is able to put his wheelchair on his scooter himself, so it is completely independent for him."

Usually, a power chair costs families thousands of dollars, but not this one. Klynstra said, "We were able to make this I think technically under $100."

"When they have like thick carpet it's hard for him to push and be able to wheel himself around. This will make that completely obsolete. He will be able to move around and go as he pleases," said Nanninga-Jensen.

Kingston can stop, start, and steer all by himself. He controls all of this right from his handlebars and knowing her son, Mom made sure the students included a speed cap on that scooter. The scooter is also rechargeable. It's fun for him to get around fast, but it's also easier, and much more inclusive.

"Definitely feels good to be able to help him out like that," said Klynstra.

"This is like a real game-changer, I mean for our family and the SMA community as a whole," said Nanninga-Jensen.

The scooter for Kingston is just one project created by these students. Another group created a machine that can pull a 1,700-pound plane out on a runway. This makes getting planes on the flight path at small-scale airports much easier.

The project connects to the front wheel of a Cessna and gets power from a specially engineered gearbox. It's controlled by a receiver like that of a remote control car.

"I met with a board and I also met with an engineering group based in Holland, our group did, just to get some ideas from them and implement them into our product," said Dan Fenton, West Michigan Aviation Academy graduate.

Fenton and his team met with DISHER who helped engineer the project.