We had a busy night last night. We met with the Marquette students building Namine’s new sports chair, and then Namine had a screening for the Milwaukee Ballet.

Custom sports wheelchair

Back in March, Jessica, Namine, and I talked to a biomechanical engineering class at Marquette. The professor told us afterwards that it was the first time he saw his students willingly stay past when the class ended. He also asked us if his class could build a piece of equipment for Namine. We said yes.

Then in September, the group of students assigned to Namine visited us at home. They talked to us and Namine (mostly Namine) to get an idea for what to build. Namine asked them to build her a sports wheelchair, so she doesn’t have to use a loaner at basketball. And she was very clear: she wanted it in rainbow colors.

Fast forward to now: last night, we met with two of the students. They shared with us some of their ideas, and I think we got a little closer to a solid plan. Namine’s new wheelchair will be a hybrid, a mix of a sports chair and a racing chair.

The wheels will be cambered, slanted like on the basketball chairs; this helps with sharp corners. (Namine is actually learning to steer without using her hands, but this does not, as she has found, work so well with non-cambered wheels.) Not only will the bottom have guards to protect against crashes, but because Namine’s legs are so fragile, the engineering students are designing the chair with more protection in mind. This includes padding — not just on the seat, but also outside her hips — and straps to keep her legs from jostling.

All this semester will be devoted to the blueprints and design of the wheelchair. Then at the end of the semester, the group will present to their professor and us, in order to convince us that this is the ideal wheelchair for Namine.

Milwaukee Ballet screening

Our evening was not over after meeting with the engineering students. Namine also had a screening appointment with some people from the Milwaukee Ballet.

The Milwaukee Ballet has a program called Tour de Force, which allows children with disabilities to participate in ballet lessons and, after five weeks of lessons, a performance.

We brought Namine’s walker to the screening, but when asked how she’d prefer to dance — in her wheelchair or her walker — she said she’d rather dance in her wheelchair. Now that Namine has passed the Milwaukee Ballet’s screening, we just have to wait for them to contact us and tell us when the classes start.