STEM schools' problem saving project helps Signal Centers

STEM School students show off their desk created for the clients at Signal Centers.

If you walk down the hallway at Chattanooga's STEM school, you may notice something is different. "I would say the students run the school and the teachers and administration just follow along." But Chemistry teacher David Vanzant knew if his students followed in his footsteps by spending time with people with a range of abilities, they'd learn a lifelong lesson.

So they came up with a plan to team up with Signal Centers, where adults with disabilities learn new life skills. "There are a lot of things that they wish they had, that they just don't have the funding, they don't have the time, don't have the resources to go after them," Vanzant says.

Signal Centers made a video for the students explaining their needs and the students got to work. "It was our first project that would be helpful for the community and have a real impact on them," says student Nick Fontaine.

This team of three juniors wanted to make it easier for Signal Centers' clients to do something they loved. The result? This desk that attaches to a wheelchair, attached with clamps, so their art is within their reach.

"The people with physical disabilities have muscular issues and it makes it hard for them to reach out far to paint on a normal easel or on a table," says student Sophie McCurdy.

The student's invention now part of Signal Centers' daily art routine. "Something as small as a platform that sits on a wheelchair can make a big difference in those peoples' lives," says Mr. Vanzant.

But it's not just the adults with disabilities who found a takeaway in this project. Fontaine says, "they have interests they have things they need, but that's not all they are."

Mr. Vanzant's class was named a nationwide finalist for Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow Contest for their project. If they win, the class could receive technology for the school.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off