Four college students wanted to give visually impaired children a safe space to play. GPRS is proud to have helped them create it.
LSU Mechanical Engineering Seniors Madeline Lemoine, Thomas Brinson, Andreas Kafkallides, and Nils Jernsletten spent nine months designing and constructing an apparatus that allows students at the Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired to run freely without the assistance of a guide or teacher.
The device they created consists of an overhead cable system attached to a pair of harnesses. The system runs between two poles set 180 feet apart. While wearing the harnesses, students at LSVI can run freely between the two poles. A zipline brake and spring compresses to slow the students as they near either of the poles. At the same time, a bell attached to a second brake rings to let the students know they are about to be slowed.
“(This) project is about helping these students run without a guide or tether,” Kafkallides explained. “Typically, when a (visually impaired) student runs, they would be holding onto a rope and then a teacher will run with them. This (system) allows students to have a free running form and run without any help from anyone else and give them a sense of independence.”
Vision disability is one of the most prevalent disabling conditions among children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6.8% of children in the United States have a diagnosed eye and vision condition. Nearly 3% of children in the U.S. are blind or visually impaired, which is defined as having trouble seeing even when wearing glasses or contact lenses.
LSVI coach and P.E. teacher Jennifer Gaudet collaborated with the LSU seniors on their running apparatus. She said she’d never heard of anyone attempting something like this before.
“I’ll tell you what, we’re super excited about it,” Gaudet said. “This project will allow us to teach the kids the proper way to run, and how to use their arms when they’re running.”
The LSU seniors also collaborated with local businesses. This included GPRS, and we were happy to donate our services and time to help with the project.
GPRS Project Manager Justin Soileau and Area Manager Joshua Gross used ground penetrating radar to conduct a utility locate in the area where the students intended to install the poles for their system. Soileau and Gross also educated the students on how GPRS Project Managers use technology such as GPR, electromagnetic (EM) locators, and 3D laser scanners to Intelligently Visualize The Built World™.
“These (college students) are great,” Soileau said. “They are definitely go-getter types, and they made a big project happen. And I know it wasn’t easy because it was a lot of moving parts, a lot of different contractors involved. We were definitely happy to explain how we do what we do and show them the science behind how it works, and they were very interested in the GPR and very thankful that we were able to provide it to them for free.”
GPRS’ participation in the project proved vital to its success. Soileau located a utility line running under where the team intended to place one of their poles for the running apparatus. There were also additional utilities nearby that they needed to avoid.
“It was definitely a good thing that they called us before they went ahead and just decided to go forward with the project,” Soileau said.
Once GPRS ensured the site was clear of underground utilities, the students worked with their other business partners to install the running apparatus. This gave them a real-world experience that can’t be simulated in a classroom.
“There were some hiccups, some stuff not working the way we thought it would work,” Lemoine said. “Being able to work through that and getting it working, and having the kids satisfied with it has really been an enjoyable experience.”
Lemoine joked that her team’s harshest, yet sweetest critics were the children that would be using the system.
“They’re not afraid to tell you the truth about the project,” she said. “That’s really been helpful as we make sure everything is good before we wrap up.”
Soileau said he and Gross loved getting to interact with the children, especially during the ribbon cutting ceremony when everyone involved got a chance to see the running apparatus being enjoyed.
“The kids were the best part about the whole thing,” Soileau said. “Watching them demonstrate the end product was amazing. They really enjoyed it. The whole school, what they’re doing is special. Kudos to the project, and to the seniors doing the project. They knocked it out of the park.”
Gaudet said it cannot be understated how much of a difference the project will make in the lives of her students.
“It opens up a whole new world for us,” she said.
GPRS was so proud to play a part in making this dream a reality. Our elite team of Project Managers set us apart from anyone else in the infrastructure visualization industry with their passion and commitment to improving the lives of the people in the communities we serve.
Thank you to Justin Soileau and Joshua Gross for representing the GPRS family so well. And thank you to Madeline Lemoine, Thomas Brinson, Andreas Kafkallides, and Nils Jernsletten for including us in your incredible project.
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