A robotics team based in Sun River recently took on an ambitious project aimed at helping a young man overcome his medical condition. Britton Buckingham, 14, was diagnosed with myelomeningocele, a rare spinal disease in which the spinal cavities don’t close properly, severely limiting range of motion and even causing paralysis.
“Doctors said it was one of the worst cases they had ever seen”, said Britton's mother Jenny. Doctors thought Britton would be confined to a wheelchair, but he overcame the odds. “We found an awesome physical therapist in Provo, Utah, and they started working with Britton when he was 2.5 years old. Now he walks with crutches,” Jenny explained.
Last weekend, Britton got to take his new wheels for a spin during Valley Fun Day in Simms.
“I never thought this was going to happen," Buckingham said. "This was a dream come true, and I’m just honored I can have the opportunity to do this.”
While the project was long in the making, the result was well worth the effort.
Sean Kyler said, "It’s a really cool project to be able to help people with disabilities, who can’t maybe move on their own. I just feel like it was a really cool project just to be able to help Britton here with his paralysis and not being able to walk. It’s really cool to see him moving around with his trike on his own.”
Robotics team leader Chuck Merja considers this project a successful one, crediting his team for the hard work.
When Buckingham was asked about his relationship with Merja alongside his team, he said, “They just keep being more nice and more nice, and I am so grateful for Chuck and his robotics team, and I can never thank them enough for what they did for me.”
Merja, the Sun River Robotics Club mentor, recalls how he met Britton in 2019 through a family connection: "[Jenny’s] mother-in-law, Britton’s grandmother, she went to school here in Simms, and I dated her younger sister.” “I posted on Facebook a picture of a motorbike with a wheelchair side-cart and Bonita (Britton’s grandmother) said that would be perfect for my grandson.”
The social media interaction spawned a friendship between Britton and Chuck and the idea for the hydraulic tricycle was born.
Chuck took his measurements and began drafting blueprints with his robotics team. Then Covid hit, and Britton grew taller. After taking new measurements, construction on the tricycle continued last year.
Now thanks to the robotics team, Britton can enjoy his new-found mobility.
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