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Senior engineers honored for pediatric walker

As they considered possible projects for their Senior Design class last semester, David Hjelle, Chad Langer, Ryan Van Der Bill, and Alan Yates weren't just shooting for a good grade-they wanted to do something spectacular.

"We were looking for a project that would be more than just a technical exercise," says David Hjelle. "We wanted to make something really worthwhile." A few months later, having received national recognition for their work, a $250 prize, and a good grade to boot, these students feel good about what they've done. Their design for a pediatric walker recently received a Merit Award in the 2003 Engineering Student Design competition.

The annual competition is sponsored by the James F. Lincoln Arc Welding foundation, and is open to students in any college in the United States.

Although they are honored by the award, Hjelle, Langer, Van Der Bill, and Yates didn't work on their project with the competition in mind. They originally designed their pediatric walker to be used by Hope Haven, a local ministry that reaches out to disabled people.

"Because we were working for Hope Haven, we had a number of unique challenges," says Hjelle. "The walker had to be transportable and flexible, and it had to be something that the folks at Hope Haven could make with the materials that they have on hand."

It was a challenge at times, but thanks to their Merit Award and the fact that Hope Haven will use their design for years to come, these students know that their work was both good and worthwhile.