Healthy Living: Easy does it for bowled over Kieron

Sheffield University student Philip Beaty who won a competition to produce an assisted technology for Cerebral Palsy sufferer Keiron Norton from Worksop''HEALTHY LIVING
Sheffield University student Philip Beaty who won a competition to produce an assisted technology for Cerebral Palsy sufferer Keiron Norton from Worksop''HEALTHY LIVING
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A SCHOOLBOY with cerebral palsy is fulfilling his dream to cook thanks to talented students from the University of Sheffield. Sarah Dunn found out more about the gadgets created and the difference they could make to his life.

A SCHOOLBOY with cerebral palsy is fulfilling his dream to cook thanks to talented students from the University of Sheffield. Sarah Dunn found out more about the gadgets created and the difference they could make to his life.

Sheffield University students who won a competition to produce an assisted technology for Cerebral Palsy sufferer Keiron Norton from Worksop with dad Andrew and mum Sharon''HEALTHY LIVING

Sheffield University students who won a competition to produce an assisted technology for Cerebral Palsy sufferer Keiron Norton from Worksop with dad Andrew and mum Sharon''HEALTHY LIVING

THE frustration can be seen etched upon his face.

Although Kieron Norton lives with cerebral palsy and the severe disabilities that come with the condition, he still wants to be independent and try out new things.

His parents Sharon and Andrew witness his frustration with the situation on a daily basis as they support him in all aspects of his life, but are thrilled to discover any special gadget or device that can help him develop and thrive on his own.

That’s why an invitation to take part in an innovative module run by the University of Sheffield’s engineering department was so welcome.

The Making Kieron’s Life Easier project asked 140 students from across the department, working in groups, to design something which would enhance and help him in everyday life.

The research, development and prototype work they underwent as part of the scheme now counts towards their degree course, and they also have the satisfaction of knowing they created a series of devices which could practically support Kieron, whose disabilities stem from his birth prematurely at 25 weeks .

Three teams out of 13 were picked to win first, second and third place - with the winning design going to a group of 10 aerospace engineering students who went by the name of Cooking for All.

Their design of an Easy Mix bowl - made up of a mixing bowl with a sealed lid through which a spoon, knife or other implement can be fitted - was picked out by a judging panel which included Sharon and Andrew, along with industry experts, entrepreneurial alumni, business people and Kieron’s teacher.

Marks were given for both the difference it could make to Kieron’s life and the commercial viability of the product - and Andrew said it had been a tough decision to make.

“It was really hard to choose a winner out of a host of very impressive designs - the standard has been really high,” he said.

“I really think every single one of the students ideas could be turned into a reality to help people with all sorts of disabilities, whether that’s cerebral palsy or severe arthritis. We’re really grateful to the students for all they’ve done.”

In second place came an arched keyboard device featuring large buttons which can be linked up to computer software, allowing Kieron to play games and learn.

The arched shape of the keyboard device was designed specifically to accommodate Kieron’s restricted arm movement.

And in third place came an interactive board game created by a team called ASISTA. It has been designed to help people suffering from severe communication or neurological disorders actively play board games and interact with other people by helping them select which pieces they want to move.

Sharon, from Worksop, said the Easy Mix device had her vote because she knows how keen Kieron is to help her in the kitchen.

“Kieron loves cooking and helps me a lot - but I always have to do things like mixing for him,” she said.

“With this special bowl he will be able to do that himself, and it also means he’ll be able to take part in cooking classes with other children at school.”

She said the competition had given Kieron a real boost - from meeting with the students to answer their questions, through to finding out more about the products as they were developed, to discovering how they might be able to help him live a more independent life.

“He is at an age now where he is becoming increasingly frustrated - he really wants to do things for himself, he’s a bright lad and he wants to be independent. That’s why this has all been so good for him - it’s helping him to achieve that independence and giving him more confidence.”

Davind Seesurn, a final year student from the winning team, said: “When we first met with Kieron he expressed an interest in being able to help his mum with the cooking.

“We thought it was unfair that just because his condition means he could spasm at any time, causing things to spill, it meant he wasn’t able to take part. Now we’re delighted to have created something that should help with this, and of course very happy to be picked as the winners.

“But the aim really wasn’t about winning - it was about making Kieron’s life easier and as engineers, we provided a solution to a problem, which is a nice feeling. “

Competition organiser Elena Rodriguez-Falcon, senior lecturer at the Department of Mechanical Engineering, added: “The students have put so much time and effort into the task and genuinely really wanted to help. Kieron’s a little star and I’m so happy we’ve been able to help him. The project has been an amazing way to engage the students and the talent they have shown is incredible.”