NAMPA -- Three Northwest Nazarene University students put their degrees to work to help a friend.

For their senior design project in May, David Vinson, Paulo Salvador, and Mark Horton built a device to help a paraplegic girl walk again.

Richelle Heacock was going to college, on a volleyball scholarship, when she was in a car wreck that left her confined to a wheel chair.

It was really, really hard to see the transformation from this star athlete who was always helping other people and just always outside, running around, climbing trees to go to someone who's stuck in a wheelchair, said David Vinson, who majored in electrical engineering, and came up with the idea for the project.

Vinson went to high school in Washington with Heacock.

She was one of the really popular girls who was an incredible athlete and really, really friendly, he said. She was known for just being one of the nicest girls around

Vinson said he wanted to help someone while applying what he learned. He explained there are devices on the market that do what their device does, but they can be extremely expensive and complicated.

We wanted to create a device that wouldn't be so expensive, and that could also be used fairly simply, said Vinson. A lot of them took several therapists and sometimes even 30, 40 minutes just to get into the machine and then, of course, the training session as well. So we made a device that would fit with her current treadmill.

Hopefully, the machine will re-teach Heacock's body to walk.

Walking the body through its natural patterns, in this case, just walking literally, on a treadmill, helps the body and the nerves to kind of reconnect and learn to do what they should be doing naturally, Vinson said.

The machine is all packed up, ready to travel to Washington, where Heacock lives. Her physical therapist still has to evaluate it as part of her physical therapy. If all goes well, Heacock could be in the device by the end of this month.

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