H-SANTA MARIA

Apr 29, 2011 8:23 PM by Monica Quintero

Cal Poly students working to help disabled play sports games

It's meant to help people with disabilities stay active, a special project designed by Cal Poly students. They're calling it the "Wii-B-Fit." A group of five engineering students modified the Nintendo Wii system, so now those who are disabled can play Wii sports games such as bowling and tennis. The project took the students two quarters to perfect and came with a price tag of around $1,500 dollars.

Mike Ward is thrilled to be able to play on the "Wii-B-Fit." He said, "I had a bicycle accident about 15 years ago. I sustained a fracture on my spinal chord and I'm paralyzed from my chest down."

But Ward hasn't let his disabilities get him down. He said, "For the first time, my competitive juices are running again." Before his accident, the San Luis Obispo man was always very active. He was a firefighter, competed in triathlon and even the Firefighter Olympics. Ward said, "It's hard to sit back and watch people play this game regularly and not be able to participate."

But now he can and Ward put KSBY News Reporter Monica Quintero to the challenge. She played with the small remote game players typically use and Ward used his head literally. He said, "The students connected all the sensors of the wii game to the ball cap that I wear." He also uses the panel of large buttons on his lap to first line up the ball.

When the game was over, the score ended up being 121 to 145. Ward said to Quintero, "You did great, you did great. You're a first timer and it was a very close game." They both laughed at the fun they had.

Funding for this was made possible through a grant from the National Science Foundation. With that money, students work on between 8 to 10 projects a year.

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