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Teens Help Disabled Classmate Gain Independence With Robotic Locker Opener


"...every high school student should be able to open their own locker."

(Image: Livingston Daily Press and Argus video screenshot)

Due to muscular dystrophy Nick Torrance, a junior in high school, is in a wheelchair unable to walk and can't perform simple tasks like opening his own locker. That is, until his fellow classmates developed a robotic system that would give him back this one bit of independence.

Thanks to the work of two Pinckney Community High School students in Michigan, Torrance is able to wave his hand over a sensor and pop open his locker, the Livingston Daily Press and Argus reported. Doing this action again shuts the locker.

Nick Torrance demonstrates how he is now able to open and close his locker himself. (Image: Livingston Daily Press and Argus video screenshot)

“I think every high school student should be able to open their own locker,” occupational therapist for the Livingston Educational Service Agency Amy Uphouse said.

When she couldn't find a device to help Torrance out with this dilemma over the Internet, she enlisted robotics teacher Sean Hickman and seniors Micah Stuhldreher and Wyatt Smrcka to help.

Through trial and error and working with Torrance, the seniors, who won first place at the SkillsUSA robotics competition in 2012, developed a system that not only helps Torrance but could help other disabled students as well. Stuhldreher and Smrcka won a $1,500 minigrant from the Society of American Military Engineers to make more robotic lockers for other disabled students.

Seniors Micah Stuhldreher and Wyatt Smrcka helped create the robotic locker to best work for Torrance's needs. (Image: Livingston Daily Press and Argus video screenshot)

Watch this video from Daily Press and Argus demonstrating how the locker works:

The Daily Press and Argus reported Torrance's mother, Jean, saying she hopes this new independence will give her 18-year-old son more time to be social.

“He wants to talk to girls; he’s at that age,” Jean Torrance said. "I think it's a great project."

The seniors who developed the system to not only fit inside the confined locker but work with Torrance's abilities both hope to pursue careers in robotics.

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