Chandler, engineering students collaborate cross-country

Dustin Chandler, pictured with his daughter Carly, has been collaborating with engineering students from Wayne State University to design a swing for individuals with special needs. (File)

Dustin Chandler, pictured with his daughter Carly, has been collaborating with engineering students from Wayne State University to design a swing for individuals with special needs. (File)

By MOLLY DAVIDSON / Staff Writer

HOOVER—What if you could build a swing for children with special needs that could adapt and grow with them? This is the idea that sparked a cross-country collaboration between Inverness resident Dustin Chandler and biomedical engineering students at Wayne State University in Detroit, Mich.

The idea first came to Chandler and his wife, Amy, two years ago when they noticed how much their daughter Carly loved to swing. Carly has CDKL5, a rare neurological condition that causes severe seizures. Although Carly may never be able to walk or talk, she “loves to swing,” Chandler explained.

“We are using a swing right now, (but) it’s really not made for her age,” Chandler said, noting at 4-years-old Carly is beginning to outgrow her swing. “We’ve looked for swings, and there’s really not one on the market.”

Through a friend, Chandler was connected with Dr. Michele Grimm, an associate professor in the biomedical department at Wayne State University.

“That got the ball rolling,” Chandler said.

Throughout the year, Grimm’s class of 27 biomedical engineering students have been working in teams to design a motorized swing that “provides safety to the user, is structurally sound, (can be) used over extended periods of time, (is) quiet (and is) cost effective,” Grimm explained.

“We haven’t found anything out there that’s motorized and self contained and can be put in a home without any major modifications,” Grimm said, noting without existing models, the students are creating their designs from scratch.

Chandler consults with the students through Skype videoconferences and through email.

“I consult with them…giving them a parent and a child perspective as much as I can,” Chandler said. “It has been a really neat process to be a part of.”

In May, Grimm said “one or two designs” will be chosen to physically prototype. Chandler said he hopes to bring Carly to Wayne State to try one of the designs when they are built, and to thank the students for their hard work.

“I’d love to travel to the college in Detroit to meet these kids, to thank them in person,” Chandler said. “I don’t think (the students) have grasped how many lives they will affect… Two years ago when we started talking about it, it seemed impossible.”