UT Mechanical Engineering students design walkers for girl with rare genetic condition

6-year-old from Pemberville weighs 23 pounds due to Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome
A 6-year-old from Pemberville weighs 23 pounds due to Wolf-Hirschhorn Syndrome
Published: Apr. 22, 2022 at 12:26 AM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - A 6-year-old girl from Pemberville is about to get not one, but two gifts of a lifetime.

Bethany Rasmusson weighs 23 pounds and is non-verbal. She has a rare genetic condition called Wolf-Hirschhorn syndrome. It requires Bethany to use a walker to get around, but her mother says most walkers are too cumbersome.

“It’s been really difficult for us to find a walker for her that gives her the freedom that she wants. Because of her small size, most of the equipment out there is just so heavy, it makes it really difficult for her to maneuver it,” explains Bethany’s mom, Kelly Rasmusson.

That’s where a handful of University of Toledo students come in. They’re studying mechanical engineering, and as a final project, they’re custom building walkers for Bethany.

“It was proposed as just an indoor walker project. But there was such an outreach of the students wanting to do that one singular project, that they created two groups: One to create an indoor walker, and one to create an outdoor walker,” says Alexander Enders, a 3rd year Senior enrolled in the Mechanical Engineering program.

On Thursday, April 21, Bethany got to try out the walkers for the first time.

“We’ve been working on this for now, 13-14 weeks, and so this is the first time that we finally see Bethany in the product, and it’s definitely motivating,” said Malik Shaheen, a 5th year Senior studying to become a Mechanical Engineer.

“The most important thing for us is that Bethany’s safe with whatever she’s doing, wherever she’s walking,” added Bethany’s father, Kurt, who gave the students some feedback. For the next week, they’ll be working to tweak the designs.

“We’re going to be adjusting the wheels and adjusting the leg setup to almost a stair-step down, so there is no tipping hazard,” said Enders.

Then, the students will present their final projects during the College of Engineering Senior Design Expo Friday, April 29th from noon until 3:00PM at Nitschke Hall.

After that, Bethany can take the walkers home with her.

“It’s just been such a huge blessing,” said Kelly. “This will open up so much freedom for her.”

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