New device helps people with cerebral palsy roller skate

Published 8:38 am Saturday, August 21, 2021

Those who couldn’t normally skate due to cerebral palsy can now get on the skate floor at The Skatin’ Rink at 128 Fob James Drive in Valley thanks to a device designed by Auburn University’s engineering team. It was originally designed for Jacob Carroll, now 20, who used to assist in the skate center’s skates room, according to the business’s co-owner, Carmen Turnham.

Carmen and her husband, co-owner Jason Turnham, had been thinking about finding a way to get Carroll on the floor after seeing a YouTube video showing a man with cerebral palsy in a device that allowed him to skateboard.

“It was more of a cage contraption, though, and my husband didn’t want that overhead on him,” Carmen said. “So we sent [the Auburn University engineering department] the link of the YouTube video that we saw, but we also told them how we wanted ours to look. We didn’t want him to be so obvious skating around. We just wanted him to have it maybe from waist down so he could so he could blend in a little bit better.”

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Coincidentally, before she or Jason had reached out to Auburn University’s engineering department, someone from it contacted Carmen about getting his medical records.

“We were wanting to go ahead and reach out to them, anyway,” Carmen said. “And it just so happened within a month or so of trying to get this project going that a person on their team needed their medical records. And that’s when I was like, ‘Look at this perfect timing right here. Let me go ahead and talk to him and see if we can get this going while I’ve got him.’”

The device also has a hand break, a supportive harness, and a platform for the user to stand on. Turnham said the device is pulled around by skaters, who hold onto the side handles. The platform can come off to allow a user to actually skate.

Turnham said the device is adjustable for people of different heights.

Carmen said Carroll uses the device every weekend. He will soon live on campus at the University of West Georgia so he can continue his college degree in business management. Carmen said that when that happens, he will probably come every other weekend.

Carmen estimated that the project began around September or October of last year.

“So it’s been almost a year-long project for them,” she said. “It was the senior developers. And when we finally saw it and saw him on it at Auburn that day, when we went up there to officially give it to him, it was overwhelming. My husband and I had to just stand back for a minute and get ourselves together. It’s been wonderful seeing him out on that floor, and the kids love seeing him out there, too. So I guess this has been very gratifying community-service-wise, being able to see somebody that wouldn’t normally be able to skate be able to skate now.”

“I always wanted to skate, so I love it,” Carroll said.

Welding company RFM donated some of the materials for the project, and Jacob’s father, Heath Carroll, did the welding.

The Auburn University team intends to make their invention available to other rinks and communities by making the blueprint available online.