Ketchikan girl gets a lift from shop student

In this April 24, 2013 photo provided by Marggie Sweetman, Ketchikan High School junior Cameron Showalter poses with the chair he designed for a Houghtaling Elementary School student in Ketchikan, Alaska. (AP Photo/Marggie Sweetman)

KETCHIKAN — A Houghtaling Elementary School student is sitting pretty thanks to Ketchikan High School junior Cameron Showalter and Kayhi shop teacher Steve Thomas.


Marggie Sweetman, a physical therapist at Kayhi, said that the child’s feet didn’t reach the floor — as ideally they should for good posture — when she was sitting at the same level as her peers.

Finding specialized equipment for the classroom can be a difficult task, and Sweetman was unable to find a quick solution for the child, who she said she could not identify.

Before work began on the project, teachers had been placing cardboard boxes under the chair the child, who has Down syndrome, was using.

Sweetman and Thomas agreed that a student should be involved. Thomas said he chose Showalter because the student is in both his drafting, a project design-based class, and shop classes and had done side projects before.

The adaptation, designed and built by Showalter, added rails to the legs of the chair and a sliding wooden shelf between the student’s feet and the floor.

“I was actually pretty accurate with the measurements,” Showalter said.

Thomas added a lip to the front of the shelf to keep the desk from tipping forward when the student was climbing into the chair.

“Basically ... we created a step in the chair that can be removed,” Thomas said. “That way, as the girl gets bigger and her balance gets a little bit better, they can remove it.”

The 16-year-old spent about 30 hours of class time designing, building and finishing the shelf.

Thomas said he prefers to take on shop work that assists the school and gives students real-world challenges.

“Projects like this are what we’re looking for — projects where we’re benefiting the community,” he said.

Sweetman said the Thomas and Showalter saved her “an immense amount of time” by building the shelf themselves.


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