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South Tech,
Washington University students

Collaborate on Project for Students with Cerebral Palsy

Students at South Technical High School recently teamed up with biomedical engineering students at Washington University in St. Louis to build a prototype of a device that can enhance physical therapy for children who have cerebral palsy.

Washington University students Liz Phillips, Kelly Hill and Amanda Meppelink designed the Flex2Play as part of their senior year design project, which tasked them with identifying and addressing a need in the biomedical field.

They aimed to create an affordable, portable device that was easy to use at home and would motivate young patients with cerebral palsy to engage in physical therapy. Flex2Play is an ankle-strengthening device designed to attach to a Nintendo Wii remote, allowing children to integrate physical therapy with online video games.

“I liked this project because it was something that you could see moving forward,” Hill said. “We designed it for kids with cerebral palsy, but there are a lot of different people this could be used for.”

When Phillips, Hill and Meppelink wanted to build a prototype of their completed design, they approached South Tech about possibilities for collaboration. Several students in the precision machining program at South Tech built the prototype under the guidance of precision machining instructor Bob Arcipowski.

In addition to getting help with building their prototype, the Washington University students received feedback about how to improve their design from a manufacturing perspective.

“We’re really grateful for everything the students have done with us,” Phillips said.

Troubleshooting the design gave the South Tech students plenty of practical experience as well, according to Arcipowski.

“Problem solving is a big part of what we do,” he said.

Kyle Webster, one of the South Tech students who worked on the Flex2Play prototype, said the project offered the chance to get the kind of real-world experience that fits his career interests. “I’ve always liked building things from nothing, really,” he said. The design trio credits their project mentor, Washington University occupational therapy professor Dr. Jack Engsberg, for posing the initial design challenge. He worked with the team throughout the year and will continue to work on developing the Flex2Play after the students graduate, including filing a provisional patent application.

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Special School District of St. Louis County (SSD) is a leader in providing special education services to students with disabilities and also provides a wide range of career and technical education programs.
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