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Queen's University
 

Who Cares About Cerebral Palsy?

Dear Parent,

As a parent, you know how hard your child has worked to become a part of the Queen's community. You may also know that Queen's is unique in its offerings and opportunities, both inside and outside the classroom. But what you may not know is that, here at Queen's, your child has the opportunity to change the world. That has been my experience at Queen's.

Children with cerebral palsy face several challenges, particularly in their teenage years.  As they become bigger and heavier in adolescence, their muscles do not keep up.  They have a harder time getting around, tiring more easily.  They can become increasingly socially isolated.  These are the facts.  My question was:  what could I do to help?

As a Ph.D. student in the School of Computing, I work in Dr. Nick Graham’s EQUIS (Engineering Interactive Systems at Queen’s University) Lab.  My role involves working closely with a group of children with cerebral palsy to design games that encourage physical activity. 

If you tell people that a computer game can be good exercise, they will have trouble believing you.  But that is the idea behind the CP Fit ‘n’ Fun project – it combines gaming with exercise. 

Young man demonstaring the CP Fit 'n' Fun The Cerebral Palsy Fit n'Fun gaming system in use

Combining creativity and technology

The CP Fit ‘n’ Fun project started with regular bi-monthly meetings with kids for participatory design sessions.  In these meetings the kids would test the games and give us feedback or new ideas.  Then we’d head back to our EQUIS lab where we would incorporate their ideas. 

So how does the CP Fit ‘n Fun gaming system work?  Imagine a recumbent bicycle connected to a 23-inch computer screen and you have the basics of the system.  We developed several different games.  For the games to work, the player must pedal the bicycle – and pedal it hard.  The harder you pedal, the faster you move in the computer game. 

These games include a networking component, making them multiplayer.  The Fit ‘n’ Fun set-up comes with a headset – so kids can talk to each other while they play.  Along with promoting physical activity, the CP Fit ‘n’ Fun program helps these kids avoid social isolation.  I think you could say the trials were a success – the kids wanted to keep the games!

Excellence meets opportunity

I can’t tell you how satisfying this work has been for me.  To create something that so demonstrably helps people is fantastic.  I hope that someday every child with cerebral palsy has access to a system like this.

My experience is not unique.  Every year, Queen’s students are taking part in initiatives like this that are profoundly affecting people’s lives, making a real difference. 

Queen’s provides a stimulating environment where passion and initiative are matched with opportunity.  And that is exactly what your gift will do.  Please add your support to the 2012-13 Queen’s Parent Fund with a gift to the Queen’s Fund, where every gift creates opportunity.

Hamilton Hernandez, Ph.D student  
School of Graduate Studies

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