The real story behind the Amazing Curb Climber

I want to be an author or librarian when I grow up. I like to read all kinds of books — fiction and non-fiction and fairy tales. I want to write fairy tale books for children and young adults.

You can imagine I love the library, but going to the library can be tough for me. I have cerebral palsy, which means I don’t get around as well as some other kids. I rely on a walker for support.

In some places, like the library in my town, the ramps are far away from handicap parking and the entrance to the building.

It would be SO much easier if my walker was more like an all-terrain vehicle and could go over curbs or stairs.

When I was 7 and in 1st grade, Dr. Benjamin Shore, in the Boston Children’s Hospital Cerebral Palsy Program, did a double hip osteotomy to help me walk better, and I had Botox and phenol injections to help with spasticity. I spent a week at Boston Children’s Hospital and four weeks not bearing weight and even more time going to physical therapy.

I had a lot of time to think. This was right around the time of my school’s Invention Convention, which is like a science fair for inventors.

That’s when the idea for the Amazing Curb Climber was born.

A family project

But the next year, when I was in 2nd grade, my family travelled to Texas to visit my grandparents, and the trip overlapped with the Invention Convention. I had to miss it.

This year — 3rd grade — was my year. The Amazing Curb Climber became a project for my whole family.

My sister Claire and I decided to work as partners. I did basic sketches on paper, and my family helped me iron out the creases like planning, drilling and sawing.

Claire and I had a few different ideas that we tested. We tried a four-wheeled design, different wheel sizes and types and different base sizes before we decided on our final product.

Claire and I in the workshop

To build the Curb Climber we used two of my old walkers — one for demonstrating and one for creating the wheel base. We used plastic (for the wheel base) and lawn mower wheels to make the Curb Climber and borrowed my brother’s skateboard curb to show how the invention worked.

My dad chipped in by drilling and sawing for the wheel assembly, and he helped build and move a portable curb (for testing the Curb Climber).

My mom helped by editing my Inventor’s Journal and project board for the Invention Convention.

My brother loaned us skateboard parts for a wheel idea we didn’t use, for a small model, which we had to make for the Invention Convention, and to build a curb.

My oldest brother loaned us a green screen to make a video to demonstrate the Curb Climber, and he helped edit the video.

My sister Claire helped with the assembly and demonstrated the model.

And I designed, helped to build, test and demonstrate our finished invention.

The Amazing Curb Climber won first place for “Best Use of a Wheel” at my school Invention Convention and second place for “Kids’ Choice.” We went to the regional Invention Convention and won first place for “Special Needs Award” and another first place for “Microsoft Technology Award.”

Innovations and ideas

Even though I want to be a writer, I’m working on a list of ideas for people who are disabled. One is a wheelchair with an umbrella and another is an all-terrain walker.

Looking for care for your child? Make an appointment with a caregiver in the Boston Children’s Cerebral Palsy Program.

Sadie-cerebral-palsy-American-girlAbout the blogger: Sadie McCallum is 9 years old and about to finish 3rd grade. Sadie has Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy and gets care and treatment from the fantastic doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital Cerebral Palsy Clinic. Sadie enjoys reading, writing, playing with American Girl dolls and dark chocolate. She lives with her father Patrick, her mother Miriam, her brothers Jack (16), Harry (11) and her sister Claire (6). Sadie uses a wheelchair, walker and crutches to get around, but this year, thanks to surgery and a LOT of hard work in physical therapy, she took her first unassisted steps ever!