Michaela Reed navigates an obstacle course of stools in the hallway of Oak Harbor High School with her new bike. (Laura Guido / Whidbey News-Times)

Michaela Reed navigates an obstacle course of stools in the hallway of Oak Harbor High School with her new bike. (Laura Guido / Whidbey News-Times)

Oak Harbor robotics team puts skills to work for little girl

Michaela Reed loves bicycling, even though her arm ends just below her elbow.

Michaela Reed’s “lucky fin” might be different than her peers, but it certainly doesn’t slow her down.

Thursday afternoon, the 4-year-old deftly navigated an obstacle course of stools in the hallway of Oak Harbor High School with her new bike. Onlookers included her mother, Amanda Reed, and members of the high school robotics and the Home Connection Lego robotics teams.

The groups worked on pieces to outfit the bike optimally for Michaela, said Che Edoga, robotics team facilitator.

“I think that’s probably the most fulfilling stuff,” Edoga said of watching her successfully use the bike.

Michaela’s left arm, what she calls her “lucky fin,” ends just past her elbow. She loves to go camping and biking with her grandparents, so her grandfather attached a plastic cup and cutout piece of a pool noodle with tape.

The device allowed her to keep her arm on the handlebar, but she still had trouble steering.

Although Edoga described the method as “surprisingly effective,” he thought maybe the robotics team could step in.

The Wildcats FIRST Robotics team had already modified a small bike and prosthetic for another girl, but lost contact with the family before she could use it. When Amanda and Trevor Reed, who both are teachers in the school district, mentioned to Edoga that maybe the team could help their daughter, he put the students to work.

A student used a 3D scanner to create a model of Michaela Reed’s arm for the prosthetic arm attachment to the bike.

Edoga said it was challenging to come up with a method for attaching the arm to the handle bars without creating a dangerous situation for the rider. Eventually, they settled on a battery-powered electromagnetic lock and release system that is activated by a switch on the right handlebar.

The students have been working on the design since November, and there are still some adjustments that need to be made. Thursday the Home Connection students, who helped make the molds that fit the arm to the handle bar, watched Michaela and suggested ways to make the bike more effective.

Wildcat robotics member Logan Ince also chimed in, and they decided to adjust the size of the arm cuff to make it easier for her to turn.

Michaela sat calmly on her bike as students surrounded her, measured her arms and discussed ways to improve the design.

“She really just goes with the flow,” Amanda Reed said.

Michaela wore purple-tinted safety glasses, which she called her “night-vision” goggles and her shirt read “I have a limb difference. What’s your superpower?” Amanda said her daughter sometimes asks questions about her arm, but she’s very good at adapting.

“I like to bike,” said Michaela.

“I like that I get to pedal.”

This story originally appeared in the Whidbey News-Times, a sibling paper of The Daily Herald.

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