Many students across the country ask themselves when school classes will play into the real world. Liam Rocheleau (‘20) was one of many students who asked themselves this very question. When the parents of a MapleRun preschooler from Saint Albans City reached out to BFA, Rocheleau had an answer to this question.
Rocheleau has done his part in trying to help the others with an engineering project for a young boy with significant mobility issues. While doing Mr. Symula’s Principles of Engineering class, a family reached out to the school and caught Rocheleau’s attention. Rocheleau, already taking engineering classes and having two years of robotics, accepted.
Rocheleau looked at designs for weeks and started working at the beginning of spring semester of the 2018-2019 year. His start was to first get a large toy car and work from there.
“It’s basically one of those toy cars that little kids can drive around on. We gutted the wiring on it and put it so the electric motor and the gas pedal button are on the steering wheel. That way it is easily accessible for a younger kid…” Rocheleau said.
The project was designed to assist the student for multiple hours of the day, so Rocheleau looked into options to make the vehicle more comfortable and easy to control.
“We made it safer by putting a harness and a headrest. Then we put a dial on the back to control the speed and a forward and reverse switch so he could reverse out of tricky positions. We also hooked it up to a Bluetooth app so the parents and helpers can keep an eye on him. They can slow it down with the phone, shut it down with the phone. All in all we just tried to make it more safe for the kid,” Rocheleau said.
Rocheleau, in addition to assisting on this project, has worked with students with disabilities before. Being a member of Unified Sports, he has experience in helping students with disabilities train for the Special Olympics. He has been inspired by his own morals to help.
“It’s just a good way to give back to the community . . . I thought I’d try to brighten his day and brighten his life. It can help him learn along with being able to help him get around… This is really one of the first chances to freely move around,” Rocheleau said.
Time was limited for this project so Rocheleau worked long hours. In addition to the semester of work he put in, he worked in the summer multiple days to try to move forward.
“The project took a full semester… I was getting in at 6:15 in the morning and working through first period. Sometimes even through enrichment and second period. I would spend sometimes up to five hours on the project,” Rocheleau said.
The child who received the project is now enjoying the benefits of mobility and has been using the vehicle daily since the completion of the project in mid-summer.
“I really am just glad that I was able to make this kid’s life better. He can now freely travel and enjoy the world better because of what we were able to do,” Rocheleau said.
NOTE: Rocheleau’s project is only the start of the design process of this effort. The Principles of Engineering class is advancing on that prototype and they are working towards more advanced models to come out later this year.