Two University of Central Oklahoma students and their professor are receiving national attention and congressional praise for an invention designed to help disabled children.
The computer program they invented is an electric wheelchair simulator that the university says is unlike any of its kind. The program is already helping children in need, according to assistant professor Jicheng Fu, Ph.D.
"They are excellent," Fu said about his students.
Sophomore Wenxi Zeng has industry experience from China. Senior Sean Smith is from a game development school in Georgia. The two men instantly caught the attention of Fu, who says he's very blessed to have them on his research team.
The program is designed much like a video game, with a joystick. It's intended for learning and keeping the attention of children ages two to five years. The goal is to safely teach youngsters how to use an electric wheelchair. Other wheelchair simulators are not catered for young children. That makes this simulator standout, according to Fu.
"I'm just glad that I had the opportunity to work on a project that I felt was really meaningful," Smith said.
The program has already caught the attention of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and even landed the trio a trip to the White House. The students returned to Oklahoma from the D.C. trip on Wednesday.
"The research we made is good for the children," said Zeng. "We help them to improve their mobility."
Smith and Zeng hope to eventually apply the algorithms of the simulator to tangible wheelchairs. The simulator records sessions to allow parents to track their child's progress.