By Alexandra Burlacu | Aug 31, 2013 11:44 AM EDT
A hacker who is also a father has built a foot-pedal interface for a wheelchair so his two-year-old son could explore the world as he should.
While most two-year-old toddlers are restlessly exploring everything within reach, the kid in this story, Alejandro, suffers from Spinal Muscular Atrophy. It is a degenerative disease that limits his movements and keeps him from enjoying the world like a normal kid would. Despite the fact the Alejandro is a hopeful, social toddler, his condition makes him physically weak and he needs special aid.
Luckily for Alejandro, his father loves him more than anything and has decided to put his mad hacker skills to good use. Because the child is only two years old, he has to wait another five years in order to get a power wheelchair, or at least that's what health insurance says. Five years, however, was not acceptable for the kid's parents.
Alejandro's father, Shea, decided that if nobody wants to do anything about it he will do it himself, and so it all began.
"Our best option was for me to try and build something myself," Shea writes in his Hacking SMA blog, sharing what he and his family are going through.
The first thing Shea did was purchase an adult-size wheelchair from eBay for $800. The hacker dad then proceeded to modify the seat and add batteries, facing a big challenge along the way: figuring out how to rework the wheelchair's control mechanism.
"Alejandro's toes, while quite weak, seem to respond faster to his motor intentions that his two working fingers, so I decided to focus my efforts there," Shea further noted.
Ambitious and very determined, Shea adventured into a complex hacking process that even involved breaking down a kitchen scale for parts to create a foot control. The process is detailed in this blog post.
After lots of hard work, Shea managed to create a foot pedal design that is uniquely tailored for Alejandro's abilities, and the child eagerly learned how to operate his new wheelchair.
"His motivation is amazing," boasts Shea. "For a little kid like Alejandro there is nothing quite like finally being able to explore your environment all by yourself."
It's a moving and inspiring story and a testament that determination can move mountains, especially if someone you love is your motivation. Alejandro may not be cured of his condition, but now he can explore the world a bit better than he could before. Check out the video below to see Alejandro learning how to operate his new wheels.
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