Eight students have joined forces in order to help a brave little girl feed herself, the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel reports.
A group of six engineering students from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis., and two industrial design students from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design have successfully created a simple but effective device that will help Kailyn Pieper feel comfortable eating in her school cafeteria.
Born seven weeks premature with a rare congenital disorder that affected the formation of her joints, 12-year-old Kailyn does not have the use of her arms.
But the plucky girl has taught her feet to do what her arms cannot. Kailyn has learned to write, draw, play with dolls and even gift wrap presents -- all with her dexterous toes.
Thanks to her can-do attitude, Kailyn, who started middle school last year, hasn't had much difficulty blending in with her schoolmates.
"She's so good with who she is," Holli Martin, the school counselor, told the Journal Sentinel.
But one aspect of middle school life remained a challenge for Kailyn.
Though she could hold a spoon or fork between her toes at home during mealtimes, the middle schooler felt uncomfortable using her feet to eat while in the school cafeteria with her friends.
So, instead, Kailyn would lower her face right into her plate to get the food into her mouth.
Kailyn's stepmother, Jennifer Bunke, reached out to Marquette University in Milwaukee in the hope that students might be able to come up with an effective solution.
Amazingly, a group of engineering seniors decided they would dedicate their senior project to helping the little girl find a way to feed herself in public.
It took the young twenty-somethings nine months of hard work and countless sleepless nights to get the project completed.
In a recent presentation in front of an ecstatic Kailyn and her grateful family, the team unveiled the finished product.
After using it successfully for the first time, Kailyn scored the feeding device 100 out of 10.
According to the Journal Sentinel, Kailyn presented eight framed copies of a drawing she had made to the team after the presentation. Below the images of a heart, a Barbie doll, a musical note and a book, Kailyn wrote this message:
"These are things that make me happy, and you're one of those things...Thanks from the bottom of my heart for helping improve the quality of my life one spoonful at a time. Love, Kailyn Pieper."
Though exemplary, this senior project is not the first of the kind.
According to WLFI.com, in 2009, Purdue engineering students successfully invented devices to assist disabled dogs as part of their senior project. Earlier this year, the Sioux City Journal reported that Tulane University has a senior-level course in which biomedical engineering students design projects to help the disabled.
Read the entire incredible story by the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel here, and watch the video above.