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November 17, 2004

Students Create Robot To Help People With Disabilities

From: WLOX - Biloxi,MS,USA - Nov 17, 2004

Eighth Grader Danny Sween pointed to what looked like a LEGO toy and said, "We used two wheels and a skid plate on the front here. That allows it to continue to turn".

The vehicle was actually a complex piece of technology.

"You actually program it on the computer, and then download it to it. It's completely autonomous. It can do everything completely on its own."

Danny and his gifted classmates at Long Beach Middle School created the small wonder to help people with disabilities tackle simple tasks.

Seventh grader Ihaab Syed said, "It would help with reaching and grabbing things, because most handicapped people, they don't have very good use of their hands or arms".

Danny said, "Another mission was retrieving glasses and bringing them back, which might be hard if you have a handicap, if your glasses fell on the floor".

The robot can also knock CDs into the case, play a game of basketball, even help you figure out which bus to board by stopping at the right sign. The students designed the robot after visiting a school for special children, and taking on roles of people facing physical challenges.

Ihaab said, "We did an experiment about what it would be like to go around each day with a handicap. Like James, he went around with Glaucoma. He smeared Vaseline on his glasses. Kaylee was deaf".

Ihaab added, "We also went on the Internet and found out a lot about disabilities and which ones were probably the most common or the most severe. Some people couldn't use their arms, some people were mute and some people were deaf".

The robotics project taught the students some amazing engineering feats, but most of all, it taught them compassion for others.

Ihaab said, "We've learned a lot about the plight of handicapped people. If more people did this, we can make a big difference".

The name of the Long Beach robotics team is "LEGO", which stands for "Lending Everyone Good Opportunities". It took the students more than two months to research and create their robot.

By: Trang Pham-Bui

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