Capstone project would provide comfort for special needs children

May 18, 2012

A group of Kettering Mechanical Engineering students, inspired by a local family whose young child suffers from genetic disorder 1p36, has engineered a special swing.

Most parents have witnessed the comfort that motion or swinging can provide for babies. Unfortunately, for parents of children with muscular development issues, commercial swings currently on the market often don’t provide the support necessary to let these babies experience the therapeutic benefits that swinging can provide.

A group of Kettering University Mechanical Engineering students, inspired by a local family whose young child suffers from genetic disorder 1Capstone group photop36, has been working on a capstone project that could help alleviate that problem.

The child who inspired the project is comforted by swinging movement, often spending up to six hours per day in a swing. But as she grows and gets bigger, her swings’ batteries burn out quickly and don’t have the durability to keep her secure when she is swinging. Her parents asked Kettering University students if they could come up with a solution to support a child beyond infancy.

The original capstone group – Kate Craft-Otterbacher, Matt Kline, Ashley Siler and Sara Zerilli – developed a concept called ‘Bella’s Wing.’ Their prototype is designed to support children up to twice the weight that other swings on the market typically hold.

The advantages of this swing as opposed to others are numerous. The model is more portable, making transportation easier. The swing itself, when assembled, also takes up less space than most infant swings.

“This is a much smaller design than most swings and it’s less awkward to move from room to room or up or down stairs, for example,” Craft-Otterbacher said. “It is also more powerful.”

The swing was also designed with the comfort of special needs children in mind – the parents who approached Kettering about the project gave helpful feedback that the students took into account while building the swing.

“They told us their daughter’s specific preferences, so we designed the swing with that in mind,” Siler said.

Now the four students who started the project, who are all graduating, are handing the project off to another group of students who will take it over and continue to finish the product. It is not common for Kettering University capstone projects to be passed down to other groups, but this project represented a unique opportunity for collaboration among students who were passionate about the idea.

The new group of students taking it over are John Boswell, Bree Hyden, Amber Roth and Hayley Schuller. They will work on perfecting the prototype. They are also in the process of submitting a patent. It could be ready to enter the market for sale relatively soon.

“There currently are no competitors who cater to this specific need,” Kline said. “We’ve reached out to and been in contact with companies that sell disability products.”

Patrick Hayes
(810) 762-9538