Life-changing assignment: Local students help little girl defy medical odds

Posted at 9:46 PM, Jan 05, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-05 23:28:07-05

A plan local high school students put in place to help a little girl walk is finally taking shape.

The students are excited to see almost five months of hard work coming together, and the donations have been pouring in since our first story on Vivian's robot aired.

Putting together her robot has been a challenge. 

"There's specific holes where everything lines up that are threaded," one of the SFRobotics' team members said.  It's their fourth attempt at assembling the frame, which has to be exact, to make it safe for a rambunctious two-year-old. 

Back in August, the St. Francis High School students met Vivian Johnson and got to work designing something to help her walk.

Vivian's mom Sarah told us, "the therapist says we're getting close to taking it to the next step where we're going to have to start carting the stuff around with her."

She's talking about the life-saving equipment that breathes for Vivian.  All 50 pounds of it has to move with her. 
"We're kind of at a standstill right now," she says.

That's because Vivian is unique. Most children and adults like her are not mobile. They use a wheelchair, but these students have created a solution in the form of a robot - giving her the same independence as her siblings.

Vivian got her first look when Sarah brought her by to show their support for the student's hard work.  Vivian's favorite part?  The demo robot.  It's similar to the one that will move her cart, making it go wherever Vivian does.

It's the most complex robot this team has ever designed, and the rewards from this project don't compare.  Sophomore Jake Bednarksi told us, "it makes me want to work harder and do more projects like this. I'm very happy I chose to be part of this."

It's something the community is also getting behind.  Major companies in Wisconsin, and out of state, are donating parts and expertise to the project.  Team member Georgia Hancock said the biggest payback has been seeing Vivian's reaction.  "It's going to be even cooler to see when it's all done, and she's actually using it. That's like the best feeling in the world."

Vivian's mom is more than thankful, "they've just blessed our lives more than I can say," she says.

The SFRobotics' team created a concept called "ONEIGHTY," where students give back through technology.  Vivian's robot has been a life changing assignment.  Up next, the students will start on the electronics that control the actual robot.  The last step will be test runs with Vivian to work out any kinks.  And she's ready.  Vivian actually walked for the first time last week!

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