Tech Center students help second grader overcome disabilities

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On Dec. 19, 2018, at RR Oehrli Elementary in Montague, Payton Hunter got her first look at a document camera that Muskegon Area Career Tech Center (MACTC) students have modified to make it easier for her to manipulate.

Payton, a second-grader at Oehrli, has significant mobility and visual disabilities. While these have not diminished her desire to learn or dampened her spirit, they have made some things more difficult in the classroom.  But now, thanks to seven students from the MACTC, and their instructors, classroom life is going to be a lot easier for Payton.

Payton spends 100% of her day in general education and is academically competitive in her class, but she requires a document camera and an iPad Pro to see her teacher, the front of the room and any document on her desk. Her physical impairments make it difficult for Payton to independently reposition the camera to focus on her teacher or other instructional materials around the classroom.

Payton’s mobility issues are caused by the condition Arthrogryposis, characterized by multiple joint stiffness and muscle weakness.  Several different conditions contribute to Payton’s visual disabilities, leaving her with corrected vision of 20/800 (20/200 is considered legally blind). Her distance vision for detail, such as letters and words, is about three inches from her face. She also uses her nose to write, type and draw on her tablet. 

In searching for ways to help Payton, Corinn Hower, MAISD Assistive Technology Consultant, enlisted the aid of MACTC instructors Brent Nummerdor, Machine/Engineering Technology, and Kathy VanTil, Allied Health and Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, to see if they could work with their students to find a way for Payton to move the camera more easily.

The MACTC students took on this project on as if it were a professional product design process and were assisted in the process by MAISD Project-based STEM Specialists and other MAISD and MACTC Staff. The students met with Payton throughout the process so she could provide feedback on their progress two of the prototypes.

Students used CNC (computer numerical control) routers and 3D printers to quickly prototype and make the parts to modify the document camera.

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