TTU engineering students help make holidays happy for child with muscular dystrophy

A group of Tennessee Tech University engineering students are helping make the holidays happy for a 7-year-old boy with muscular dystrophy.

The team of 10 designed and built a motorized bicycle that will accommodate his special needs, giving him the once impossible opportunity to ride alongside the bikes of his two older brothers.

The special gift was presented to Brendon and his mother, Michelle Priddy, yesterday in TTU’s Matthews-Daniel Hall, where Priddy works as a service coordinator for the Tennessee Early Intervention System, an organization that identifies the physical, social and emotional needs of children up to age three and coordinates services to help.

Team spokesman Nick Seegraves spoke for the entire group when he said, “It’s really made my Christmas knowing we’ve been able to do something to make Brendon happy.”

Brendon was happy indeed. He squealed with delight at the first sight of his shiny, new red bike and couldn’t wait to try it out. His mom raised him from his wheelchair and strapped him into the specially designed seat of the bike, and within minutes, he had the hang of the control button on its handlebars.

As team members discussed final adjustments and modifications that needed to be made to the machine — like pulling the seat forward to be within easier reach of the handlebars — Brendon was already navigating hallways and corners on it like a pro. His only request, in fact, was for a working headlight.

“I want the light on the front to shine,” he said, when team members finally got him to stop riding long enough to get his reaction to his new set of wheels — but even a working headlight wasn’t enough of a priority for Brendon to want to give up his new prized possession.

When his mom asked if he wanted to get off the bike so the team could make their final tweaks before giving it to him for good, he said, “No, it’s good like it is.”

He reluctantly returned to his wheelchair, though, and relinquished the ride to the team, who will also get class credit for the project as part of a course taught by mechanical engineering associate professor Stephen Canfield.

Canfield has a history of working with TEIS to coordinate design projects in his courses with the special needs of the disabled children the organization serves.

“Because we serve children three and younger, Brendon is too old to participate in our program any longer, but because his mom, Michelle, is a TEIS service coordinator, we knew Brendon fit the bill for just this kind of project,” said Filomena Palmer, director of TEIS.

The engineering students knew it too. “Most of our group members came over here today just because they wanted to see Brendon again,” Seegraves said.

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