Students honored for invention to aid classmate with spina bifida

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by ELISA HAHN / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @ElisaHahnK5

KING5.com

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 10:38 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 8 at 8:51 AM

The idea sparked among a group of students at Lynden High School. Seven kids who make up the school's InvenTeam wanted to create something for the greater good and to help a fellow student.

"To be able to bring her life somewhat back to normal, just the fulfillment of that, be pretty nice," says sophomore John Rouse.

He's talking about Kalyz Lara, a special ed student who has spina bifida. With a tethered spine, balance can be tough and she can only walk short distances.

"She gets more tired easy," says her mother, Lorena Lara. "She uses her wheelchair a little bit more."

But for a 15-year-old girl, appearances can be everything. So for a wheelchair alternative, the InvenTeam decided to create the first leaning recumbent trike.

"The hydraulics will unlock and you can lean back and forth at a certain speed," says senior Jordan Kooi. He says they wanted the trike to be just as fun as riding a bicycle, leaning into each turn.

The students came up with their own original design that includes a carbon fiber frame. 

"The whole carbon fiber part of it was an effort to keep it light, because with her condition she can't do much physical activity," says Rouse.

Technology teacher Dave Weidkamp says the students have put in more than a thousand after-school and weekend hours on the project. 

"The kids are working their tails off," he says.

And now Lynden High School, known more for it's farming town and athletics, is being honored by the most prestigious engineering school in the country. The team has been invited to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to present their trike on stage in three weeks at the Lemelson-MIT Eurekafest.

"The kids have no idea what they've gotten into and how big of a deal it really is," says Weidkamp.

But they still say the most rewarding part is seeing the smile on Kalyz's face when they presented the trike to her last week.

"It's nice," a shy Kalyz says. "I'm excited."

Her mother can already imagine the possibilities.

"Like for instance go to a parade," says Lorena, "and not to have to go in a wheelchair. Instead ride a cool bike. It's going to make a difference."

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