LSU engineering students make beach-friendly wheelchair so family can continue tradition

Updated: Apr. 30, 2019 at 9:19 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Students with LSU’s College of Engineering are helping to make a family beach trip a little easier.

A trip to the beach for most entails carrying towels, umbrellas, a cooler down shoreside. For Cheslyn Simpson’s family it’s not that easy.

"We have a little manual beach car, cart, we bring her down in,” Chester Simpson, Cheslyn’s father said. "It’s a struggle.”

Cheslyn, 23, was diagnosed with Friedreich’s Ataxia, a degenerative neuro-muscular disorder. She’s been battling the disorder since she was six.

"It affects her mobility, her ability to speak and it does affect her heart,” Chester said. “It's just a crippling disease."

About two years ago Cheslyn was nominated to have a group of senior LSU engineering students figure out how to let her enjoy the beach just like everyone else. A beach going wheelchair was the result.

"This thing's got umbrellas so people can come to get out of the sun,” said Daniel Lucas, one of the students working on the project. “It's got speakers so she's going to be the dj, it's got under glow; most importantly it's got the cooler so she's got all the drinks."

Chester was almost in tears when the wheelchair was unveiled.

“You know the joy in my heart, it was nice,” he said.

Now Cheslyn can take her new wheels just about anywhere she wants to go.

"Seeing her face for the first time she drove it and we saw how well it worked and then we see her going over the sand like it's nothing, knowing that it'll make that beach vacation that much easier, that's the real goal of this project and to see that made all of us satisfied with the results,” said Kevin Durr, another of the students working on the project.

It will not be long before Cheslyn gets to test it out on the actual beach. Her family is making its annual trip to Florida in July.

"We’re going to load that puppy up,” Chester said.

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