Grand Valley student engineers build custom swing for child with special needs

Sarah Truax, right, smiles as her daughter, Alexis, rides in a custom-built swing made by Grand Valley engineering students.
Sarah Truax, right, smiles as her daughter, Alexis, rides in a custom-built swing made by Grand Valley engineering students.
Image Credit: Tony Packer

A group of Grand Valley engineering students recently delivered a custom-built electric swing to an area family to help their daughter with special needs.

The students built the specialized swing for Alexis Truax after her mother, Sarah Truax, contacted the School of Engineering after seeing a story on the local news about a similar project.

Sarah Truax said her daughter is soothed by the repetitive motion of swinging back and forth, but pushing a manual swing for hours takes up valuable time that she would normally use doing other things, so an electric swing that doesn’t require pushing is a huge time-saver for the family.

The project was organized by assistant professor of engineering Mahdi Norouzi and students in a machine-design class.

Norouzi said students developed prototypes using grant funding and built the swing with support from the engineering department.

“When I think of this project, I just think our students did a really excellent job and know that the machine we’ve built will help Alexis for a long time,” Norouzi said. “I’m blessed to have been part of this project and help this family meet their needs.”

Norouzi said the project was inspiring to him, as he has a daughter about the same age as Alexis, and he knows how much time child caretaking can take. He also said specialized projects provide unique opportunities for students to take what they are learning in the classroom and put it into practice in the real world.

“This lets students get hands-on with the work instead of just engineering the piece in concept and on paper,” he said.

Connor Green, one of the students involved with the project, said this build was the most significant project he had ever done, especially with challenging electrical controls, but said he learned about advanced concepts and said the experience was fun at the same time.

“When this started off I was most worried about getting a good grade, but seeing the family here picking it up, and seeing how it will help them for several years is a really big personal payoff,” Green said.

David Drogowski, a senior mechanical engineering major, said he has a background in machining and fabrication, so he enjoyed the experience of spending time in the machine shop and learning practical aspects of the build instead of just the design and theory.

“It was great to spend time in the shop and watch our design become a successful reality,” Drogowski said. “Seeing Alexis in the swing today was a super cool experience.”