South Piedmont Apprentices Create Customized Wheelchair Attachment for Matthews Child

Sarah Thompson with the South Piedmont apprentices who built the custom tablet stand that attaches to her wheelchair. The apprentices are all employed by Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Company.

There were plenty of misty eyes recently, when 8-year-old Sarah Thompson pressed the button on her communication tablet to say “thank you” to a group of South Piedmont Community College apprentices.

Thompson, a resident of Matthews, has a condition that prevents her from communicating verbally. She also uses a wheelchair.

Earlier this year, Charlotte Speech and Hearing Center put out a call, looking for someone to create a wheelchair attachment to hold Thompson’s tablet. Union County Chamber of Commerce President and South Piedmont Board of Trustees member, Pat Kahle, connected Thompson’s family to William Spencer, a long-time South Piedmont faculty member.

Spencer was glad to help and thought the project would be perfect for a group of Charlotte Pipe and Foundry Company machining apprentices he was training. The apprentices readily accepted the assignment and spent the last several weeks designing and manufacturing Thompson’s new tablet stand.

The apprentices even customized the stand, painting it bright red — Thompson’s favorite color — and attaching a small fan to keep her comfortable on warm days. They also ensured the stand would be easy to for Thompson’s parents to attach, detach, and collapse when needed.

Earlier this month, the Charlotte Pipe and Foundry apprentices — Cameron Blackburn, Chaz Hill, Henry Moore, Coleton Myers, and Jarrod Sikes — presented the stand to Thompson at South Piedmont’s Tyson Family Center for Technology.

The apprentices agreed the project brought them a special sense of satisfaction.

“I loved it. I have a little girl of my own. I love kids. I was all for doing something that would help Sarah,” Hill said.

The tablet will give Thompson more independence. Previously someone had to hold the tablet for Thompson, which limited her ability to express herself.

Kahle and South Piedmont President Dr. Maria Pharr attended the presentation to Thompson.

“This is a perfect example of how we all work together as a community. The Chamber saw a need, reached out to us, and we all worked together to solve a problem,” Pharr said.

“This is also a big example of how South Piedmont changes lives, in this case both Sarah’s and the lives of the apprentices, who will remember the impact they were able to make for Sarah and her family. We’re very proud of all involved.”

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