Maxwell Frank and Cole Wasserman, juniors at John F. Kennedy High School, talk about the special desk they built fo 5-year-old Andrew Genao Hoshikawa, who has muscular dystrophy. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Andrew Genao Hoshikawa used to have a hard time reaching across his desk to grab a pencil or picking up a crayon if it fell on the floor. 

The 5-year-old was born with a form of muscular dystrophy called spinal muscular atrophy, a progressive disease that limits his range of motion and weakens his muscles, said his mother Chiyo Hoshikawa of Freeport. 

But these days, Andrew, a student at the Children’s Learning Center in Roosevelt, uses a desk built especially for him.

When he needs to pick up something on his desk, like a juice box, he uses a weighted switch to rotate the turntable and bring the object closer.

A team of 10 students from John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore created the adaptive desk — coined the easyREACH 360.

Juniors Max Frank, 16, and Cole Wasserman, 17, came up with the idea after Frank contacted the learning center over the summer. After meeting with teachers, students and therapists, the team decided Andrew would be the perfect focus of a project for their entry in the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association’s REACH Challenge.

As it turned out, the invention netted the group a first-place award in that contest, where students construct adaptive and assistive technology. 

The students said the task seemed straightforward at first: build a desk with a turntable. But they said aligning the turntable with the desk and installing the right motor to turn it proved challenging.

In the end, the invention took three months to perfect and also was wired to be used with any adaptive switch, so different students with other disabilities can benefit from the desk design in the future.

“It was actually kind of nerve-wracking giving it to Andrew the first time, because it took so much trial and error,” Wasserman recalled.

But the payoff was worth it, the JFK High student said.

“To see the look on his face — I really saw the impact it had on his life. He had a greater sense of freedom," Wasserman added.

JFK educator Barbi Frank, who teaches advanced science research to the teens and acted as their project adviser, said she loved the idea of the students using their skills to make a difference.

The desk wasn't part of her curriculum, but the teacher said her students often seek out projects to put skills they learn in class to good use.

The desk was such a hit that the teenagers now are working to design a desk for another student at the Roosevelt school. The high school inventors are also planning to repair damaged adaptive toys for students at Children’s Learning Center so they'll have more playthings that cater to their abilities.

“This has motivated me," Frank said, "to hopefully make impacts on other people’s lives."

With Darwin Yanes


A desk for Andrew

Andrew Hoshikawa, 5, of Freeport, has a progressive disease that limits the range of motion in his arms. 

A team from John F. Kennedy High School in Bellmore built Andrew a desk that rotates items closer to him.

The invention won first place in the International Technology and Engineering Educators Association’s REACH Challenge.

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