Waco’s KWTX recently reported on a group of Baylor engineering students who used their senior capstone project to improve the life of a local child with special needs. Under the guidance of Dr. Brian Garland, associate professor of mechanical engineering, and Dr. Ian Gravagne, associate professor of electrical & computer engineering, the students designed a custom swing for seven-year-old Camille Witt, who was born with a genetic condition that limits her mobility. Camille is the daughter of Dr. Jason Witt, the associate director of the Baylor Institute for Faith and Learning.
While the finished product may look simple, its design was more complicated than it might appear because the swing needed to be not only stable and motorized, but also able to Camille’s weight all the way through adulthood.
In isolation, Gravagne says, either of these specifications can be easily met — standard playground swings can support adults and common baby swings are motor-driven — but in combination, they present more of a challenge.
“The engineering teams that worked on the project had to consider how to build a transportable and yet strong and highly stable swing chassis that can keep the weight of two bags of concrete (plus a safety factor) in motion without tipping or breaking, for millions of swing cycles,” he explains. “They used computer-aided design tools to simulate the forces and stresses on each component of the swing and the frame, under both static and dynamic conditions. Electrical engineering students used a powerful step-motor to produce the oscillatory motion that drives the swing, and constructed the support circuitry and the embedded motor controller.”
Garner says that the rocking motion produced by the swing is particularly beneficial for children with limited physical mobility.
“Children with disabilities that prevent them from producing coordinated motions can benefit from the vestibular and muscular responses generated in their bodies by the motion imparted to them and it can have a pleasing and calming effect.”
Check out the video above to see Camille enjoying her new swing for the first time.