Roanoke County students design, build device for classmate with cerebral palsy

One-of-a-kind device helps student work and learn

A Roanoke County student was struggling to express herself in class because of a disability until her fellow classmates designed a device to help.

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – Meet 17-year-old Bermet Moore. She’s a student at Roanoke County’s Burton Center for Arts & Technology.

Moore has cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects her ability to talk, walk and control her muscles. It’s difficult for her to write or type.

Her English Language Learner teacher Margaret Whitt wanted to help.

“She had all the knowledge that she needed, but the cerebral palsy was kind of robbing her of her chance to fully participate as much as she wanted to,” said Whitt.

She enlisted the help of Shawn Burns, the school’s mechatronics teacher. Mechatronics is a type of engineering that brings together mechanics, electronics, computing and robotics.

He put his students to work designing, 3D printing and building an adaptive number wheel.

“We decided to do a ten-sided polygon and put the numbers into it from zero up through nine and it would be a whole lot easier to roll and manipulate,” said Burns.

16-year-old John Gagnon, a mechatronics student, jumped at the chance.

“That was the whole point of doing it, was to make somebody’s life a little bit easier, a little bit better,” said Gagnon. “Knowing that she was able to participate in that class just like any other student should be able to, it made the work 100% worth it.”

It took about a week and a half to make before the final product was given to Moore on Tuesday.

Whitt already notices a difference.

“That really did help her to be able to react as quickly as the others and it gave her more confidence,” said Whitt.

Moore was all smiles. She said it helps her with her work and helps her learn.

“Is it good?” asked Whitt.

“Yeah, really good,” said Moore.

All told, the device only cost about $12 to make, but to Moore, it’s worth so much more.

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