Engineers help boy with cerebral palsy fish on his own

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AKRON, Ohio - In many ways, Paxton Matthews is like any other boy his age.

Those who know him describe Paxton as a 'go-getter,' a child who loves fishing, but whose struggles with cerebral palsy create challenges.

His mother says when he caught his first fish she had to help him reel it in.

"I had to take the pole away from him and he started crying, and I said ok we can't have this," said Christina Todd.

She turned to a group called 'The Inclusioneers' asking if there was anything they could do.

The Inclusioneers is a group of engineers willing to take on just such challenges to try to help children with disabilities live a more normal life.

Working with case workers in Summit and Portage County, where Paxton and his family live, along with bioengineering students at the University of Akron, the group created a motorized reel that Paxton can operate with the touch of a large button.

"You press it once it reels in the fish. A second time it cuts it off, stops the motor," said Walid Abuhashim, a University of Akron student who worked on the project.

"There was a lot of time spent with the prototypes and a lot of time with rough drafts, a lot of time spent communicating with the mother and family asking what their needs were," said Abuashim.

Though the new reel malfunctioned during a demonstration on Monday, it performed exactly as it was intended during its inaugural test.

"It's just a quality of life for him. He doesn't have to sit on the sidelines and watch his family do it. He can be a part of it, enjoy it and just be a part of the activities that his family enjoys so much," said Jill Gunther of the Portage County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

"When you see it all come together and work, it'sĀ amazing ...it really is," said Mike Furtha, who created the Inclusioneers to help build a bicycle for another youngster challenged with disabilities.

"It's so overwhelming, because everybody just wants to help to make this possible for him. It's just so amazing and overwhelming but it's a great experience," said Todd, adding, " I think he (Paxton) would say he loves his fishing pole."

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