As “Star Wars” fans stormed into theaters to see “The Last Jedi,” one particular Resistance pilot, Jared – a 14-year-old boy living with cerebral palsy, watched the movie while living out a lifelong dream. For over two months, students in Mount Vernon’s Innovation Diploma program worked in partnership with Magic Wheelchair, an organization dedicated to creating epic costumes for children in wheelchairs. Getting to know Jared’s needs, the students utilized design thinking, people-centered problem solving, to build the “most epic Millenium Falcon” wheelchair ever.
The Words of a Maker
Freshman Trey Tiffin, a member of the Innovation Diploma program, reflects on the experience:
People ask me all the time about what I do in iDiploma. I always answer, “Where do I start?” Then, I say that we are building a costume for a wheelchair. They will think about it for a few seconds and then ask me how I plan on completing it. I reply, “I don’t plan anything myself, we – my cohort and I – do.” My answer spawns a whole list of questions and answers, but long story short, we are building a wheelchair costume. I would like to provide a little backstory on this project. For the past semester, we were learning about observation, how to be a leader, and other things that we would use as tools during the upcoming weeks. Up until the middle of October, iDiploma was all about learning, but my cohort and I were itching with anticipation to go and make something. That was when we got our assignment.
Magic Wheelchair is a non-profit that makes costumes for wheelchairs so kids with disabilities can feel a bit more welcomed and happier with their wheelchair. Ryan Weimer assigned our cohort to a boy named Jared. Jared can’t walk or move his legs, he can only use his left arm, his vision is limited, and he loves Chewbacca. Our assignment: to make the coolest, most epic Millennium Falcon wheelchair ever. To start, we needed to check in with Jared, find out what he wanted, and find his limitations. When we found out what he can and can’t do, we split up into three teams: the hull, the control panel, and what I like to call the “make this wheelchair as epic as possible by adding lights and sounds and cool buttons to press” group. And that’s where we are now, finishing prototypes and starting to make the real thing come to life. We are coming for you, Jared. Be prepared for the most awesome Millennium Falcon wheelchair ever!
The Epic Reveal
At a private screening at the AMC Phipps Plaza 14 theatres in Buckhead, Mount Vernon Presbyterian School hosted 501st Legion’s Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Kylo Ren, Jawas, Boba Fett, a Jedi Knight, and multiple stormtroopers for the big reveal as Jared was fitted into his Millennium Falcon and “flew” down the red carpet.
At Mount Vernon, students excel when boundaries are removed, failure is an