Resourceful Rookies

Christ Prince of Peace students, from left, Josh Diehl, Kyle Newman and Aubrey Davis from the eCYBERMISSION National Showcase in Washington D.C., walker kits designed by Resourceful Rookies. (Photo provided)

Christ Prince of Peace eighth-graders Aubrey Davis, Josh Diehl and Kyle Newman make up the Resourceful Rookies, a team of students who came together to help make walkers more appealing to kids that might need to use them.   

Their project was inspired by Josh’s sister, Lily, who has had more than 10 surgeries during her life requiring months of non-weight-bearing recovery. Lily has always refused to use a walker in public, feeling like walkers are only used by old people.

“I have seen first-hand on numerous occasions how depressing walkers can be to patients’ confidence and spirits,” Josh said. 

According to the Rookies, Lily isn’t alone. They discovered that walker use is often avoided by kids, resulting in over 3,000 injuries each year, because kids fall using crutches when a walker would have been a safer option. Unfortunately, medical equipment companies do not make kid-friendly walkers because mass production of the standard walker is more cost-effective. All this information led the Rookies to design snap-on kits for walkers that would hopefully make a walker more appealing for kids to use.  

The team members started working on their project in science class last September. Then, the completed project and presentation materials were submitted to eCYBERMISSION, which is sponsored by the Army Educational Outreach Program, in March of this year. In May, the team was notified that it had qualified for a trip to Washington, D.C., for the eCYBERMISSION National Showcase in June 2022. 

“I didn’t think we would go this far,” Kyle said. “But I knew that somebody, somewhere would need this.”

The competition included projects from kids in sixth through ninth grade, with a winner chosen at each grade level. While the Resourceful Rookies didn’t win first place, they did walk away with a STEM in Action grant to build and donate their walker kits over the next year. Kyle’s mom, Mary, said the trip to Washington was very inspiring, seeing the projects from kids across the country. “It made the future look bright,” she said. 

The Rookies are currently making donations of walker kits to present to St. Louis Children’s Specialty Care Center and Shriners Children’s St. Louis in November. They will complete a total of 30 kits between now and June 2023.

The walker kits come in a variety of colors and themes, and everything is contained in a bag. There is a piece that goes across the front of the walker that has straps so it can be attached to a desk or a table and act as a sling to elevate a leg while seated. The kits also feature a cup holder and phone holder. 

“I hope our walkers can eliminate the social stigma associated with walkers. I am so glad we won the Stem in Action grant, and we will have the chance to bring smiles to children who need to use walkers when they are non-weight bearing,” Kyle said. 

“I have enjoyed being part of a team with each of us being able to use our technical and design strengths. It has been a fun experience to create walker kits keeping in mind the importance of kids’ safety with walking aids, but also something they will enjoy,” Aubrey said.

The Rookies’ main goal of the project was to design a kit that would lift patients’ spirits while not interfering with the function of the walker. They worked with local business Medi Equip throughout the process of creating the kit and testing the prototype. 

They considered the weight of the kit, and learned that standard walker poles have different diameters. They measured and designed the phone and water bottle holders, as well as testing how much each can hold. 

They measured and sewed the sling, adding reinforcing rivets and stitches so the sling would be strong enough to hold a person’s leg/foot in elevation. They also tested to ensure that the kit wouldn’t interfere with the folding mechanism of the walker. Throughout the design and testing process, they made multiple modifications to the size and fit of the kit’s 3D pieces. 

After testing the kit, the team created a survey for students at their school in kindergarten through eighth grade. They found that 61% of students surveyed were more likely to use a walker if the kit existed. The survey indicated that middle school students were very reluctant to use a plain walker, but with the kit, they were much more likely to use a walker when recommended. Students also said they liked the phone and cup holders.

Thanks to the Stem in Action grant, the team will be able to get its own 3D printer to create its designs quicker and more efficiently. The Rookies also plan to engage students and patients from local hospitals to help with new design ideas and involve the school’s sewing club and other school clubs to help with the development of future kits.  

“We can’t change the design of the mass-produced walker; however, we can add to the design of the existing walkers to make a difference in non-weight bearing patients’ recovery. Having limited mobility is already a challenge,” the Rookies said in their presentation summary. “Why not make it a little more fun and less stigmatizing!”

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