Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Mounds View High School's student news site.

The Viewer

Ramp it up!

Students in How to Make Almost Anything (HtMAA) class create a disability ramp for the school.
Isabel Li
Thao, Goldenstein and Fallgatter stand by their creation.

In a warm room with sawdust in the air and wood shavings on every surface, the Intro to Engineering class meets during third period every day. With rows of desktop computers and machines worth tens of thousands of dollars, students create everything from keychains to intricate signs under the guidance of Timothy Berndt, career and tech education teacher. 

During the second week of semester two, seniors Isabelle Goldenstein and Pretti Thao, were tasked with a project more complex than they had ever done before: building an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) wheelchair ramp for junior Ian Fallgatter so that he could better use the machines and power tools in his How to Make Almost Anything class. 

Fallgatter has thoracic spina bifida, a birth defect that affects the development of the spinal cord. “My brain can’t send the signal to the lower half of my body to move quite as effectively as other people,” said Fallgatter. Although this didn’t deter him from getting involved in the class, being in a wheelchair limited his reach to the taller machines in the classroom. 

When they began the project, Goldenstein and Thao had to research the ADA ramp guidelines and follow them to a tee for purposes of safety, ease of use and installment. For example, they had to make sure that the ramp was exactly 4.8 degrees. 

Afterwards came many rounds of calculating, designing and creating prototypes on the 3D printer. “I did some research on what angles the ramp needed to be out and [created] basic sketch drives, and then slowly [put] them into 3D models. And slowly, [it] became more and more than that,” said Goldenstein. 

They then began to use plywood and two by fours to construct the ramp. The biggest aspect of the construction was a continuous process of trial and error. “[We’d] put everything together [and realize] ‘Oh, this isn’t the correct size or it’s too long, so we have to cut it down.’ Or sometimes, when we try to screw things in, it just won’t go in straight or sometimes it would split the wood, so we had to figure out how to stop splitting the wood,” said Thao. 

Berndt intentionally took a hands-off approach in the design process, only stepping in to purchase materials or propose an idea. “For the girls, they’re hard workers, they’re very thorough,” said Berndt. “I would just do…I call them temperature checks, like, ‘Hey, can I see what you got going on there?’ And then they would say, ‘Yep, we’re doing this, this and this,’ I’m like, ‘Wonderful.’ Or, I might say, if I see something, ‘Have you thought about this or that?’ and then I just walk away and…let them chew on that a little bit and then see where it goes from there.” 

Fallgatter himself had the opportunity to get his hands dirty. He came in every so often to sand things down or give feedback to Goldenstein and Thao. This meant ensuring the platform had enough room for him to turn safely, or adding grip tape to prevent him from slipping when rolling up the ramp. “When they were at the final stages of the construction, they interviewed [Fallgatter], and they came up with a list of questions, and even the first time he went [down the ramp]…his water bottle popped out…[so we asked] ‘how can we fix that?’” said Berndt. 

Goldenstein and Thao worked on the ramp every day for two months. The finished product consists of a ramp that is five feet long that leads to a 2.896 x 3.417 x 0.708-foot platform. Fallgatter has been able to use the contraption several times to stain various creations. “I can move it pretty okay on my own, which is good, and it’s the perfect height and space for my chair to fit on it,” said Fallgatter. 

KARE 11 even featured Goldenstein, Thao and Fallgatter’s story of the ramp on their “Land of 10,000 Stories” on May 13, 2024. 

Through the ramp construction, Berndt hoped to foster a sense of empathy among students, something that he says cannot be taught directly in a classroom. “I hope there’s more opportunities like [this]… where I saw a need,” he said. “Partnering with [students with disabilities] and seeing if we can do anything to better support them[…] and have students understand the need[…]and the end result, like that’s what it’s all about.”

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About the Contributors
Isabella Kunc
Isabella Kunc, Features Editor and Spread Editor
Hi! I am Isabella, Spread and Features editor for the 2023-24 school year. Journalism 1 and 2 were so fun last year that I decided to stay on staff as an editor. While reading and writing are my favorite pastimes, I also enjoy debating, running, singing, learning new languages, and hanging out in Theater. I hope you pick up the next Viewer issue and learn something new! Awards:  Best of SNO - Our community's car dependency
Isabel Li
Isabel Li, Spread Editor and Online Editor
Hi, my name is Isabel, and I am super excited to be an editor this year. Outside of the Viewer, I am a member of the girls' cross country and track team at Mounds View. I also enjoy playing violin and piano, listening to music, and taking photos. Don't forget to pick up a copy of the Viewer! Awards:  Best of SNO - The downfall of ELA education Best of SNO - Our community's car dependency
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