A Florida high school junior’s “dancing wheelchair” science fair project not only took first prize at the science fair—it also stole the show at her prom.
Molly Paris, 17, who has been living with Rhett syndrome her entire life and has to use a wheelchair, created a dancing wheelchair that allowed her to enjoy the prom.
“Definitely gives her that mobility,” Victor Toribio, director of the Jacksonville Science Festival, told WJXT. “When she’s at the prom, she’s actually the queen of the prom.”
Molly worked with two of her classmates, the University of North Florida, and a local Microsoft store to bring her concept to life. The robotic, hands-free wheelchair responds to music so the rider in the chair can “dance” to the beat.
“I’m honored to be with Molly, Nigel, and Kira and having those students come so far because they didn’t know anything about robotics,” Toribio said.
The chair was such a success, it became the winning entry at the Jacksonville Science Festival. It also enabled Molly to become the center of attention at her high school prom.
But Molly wants to build on her project with some improvements. She plans to use the winnings from the science festival to create these chairs for others, enabling them to have greater independence.
“I think she really wants people to understand that people with challenges like her can solve their own problems and they can live their best life,” Robin Allen-Paris, Molly’s mother, said. “They need people to help them but not pity them.”
Other innovations have come out in recent years enabling those with limited mobility to have greater independence. In 2016, a robotic device allowed a man who normally uses a wheelchair to stand and kiss his bride at his wedding.