Team effort changes lives

In an incredible story combining all of the five Brisbane Grammar School core values of learning, leadership, endeavour, community and respect, students at Nursery Road State Special School (NRSSS) have received six ‘wheelchair friendly’ desks from BGS.

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BGS student Josh Phillips shows one of his wheelchair friendly desks to Nursery Road State Special School student Zahra Mohseni.

The project, involving students, teaching and maintenance staff, and external businesses, began when the Year 11 Service Committee hatched a plan to combine academic curriculum and assessment with hands-on community service. Their aim was to complete a service learning project with an authentic product that genuinely made a difference to others’ lives at the end.

With commercially-made wheelchair friendly desks priced in the thousands of dollars, the skills of the BGS Design and Technology Department were required. Year 12 student Josh Phillips accepted the challenge, and after discussions with staff at NRSSS, set about designing a prototype desk using $1000 in funding raised by BGS community service students.

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Nursery Road State Special School student Andrew Duggan works with Deputy Principal Jeff Watts, using one of Josh Phillips’ wheelchair friendly desks.

The prototype required specialist equipment that was outsourced, assembled at BGS, and then taken to NRSSS for feedback. BGS maintenance staff were called in to make alterations to the size and shape, and add some extra details. From there the Year 12 Design class readied the steel for welding and powder coating, with a further six desks completed.

BGS Design and Technology teacher Tara Richmond said Josh went above and beyond what was expected in the classroom. “Many trips off campus to access specialist materials and skills gave Josh the opportunity to project manage the range of processes required to produce a product that not only works but looks as professional as possible,” she said.

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“It was magnificent for Josh to be able to see the process all the way through, to witness firsthand the joy his design brought to the students of NRSSS, and to hear from the teachers the impact these desks will have on student learning.

The completed desks were delivered to NRSSS on Wednesday 16 November. Acting Deputy Principal Jeff Watts, who was involved with the project from the very beginning, said the desks were brilliantly designed.

“Quite literally, the impact of these desks will change lives,” he said. “They are so simple, but so effective. Josh should be very proud. They may look like relatively normal desks, but the levels of functionality and the way they narrow the focus of students make them vital for us.”

“A lot of the kids here have multiple impairments and these desks will add so much to their classroom experiences. Desks like these are a niche product and are very expensive, so we are certainly appreciative.”

Josh said the seeing the process through from start to finish was very rewarding, and was happy to be able to create a design that had clear practical benefits for students.

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