East Moline’s Robo Gators design new all-inclusive playground equipment for Silvis

A group of students from Glenview Middle School are changing their community in a big way – and it all started with a class project.

EAST MOLINE, Illinois-- A group of students from Glenview Middle School are changing their community in a big way - and it all started with a class project.

"This year’s challenge was city shapers," said Sanchia Sommer, head coach of the Robo Gators, a robotics league with the East Moline School District. "So finding a solution to a problem in your city."

With that in mind, Sommer said her students took off to solve problems they saw within their own community.

"(The students) thought about what kinds of handicap-accessible equipment is out there and do any of our local parks have this equipment?" said Sommer.

After doing research, seven students decided to design a wheelchair accessible merry-go-round.

"It will be at ground-level so somebody can easily roll on," said Gracie Pfaff, a 5th grader with Robo Gators. "It will have seatbelts from two angles," she said as she demonstrated their model replica.

Once strapped in, each child can use a center turn table to spin themselves around.

"It's similar to the tea cup rides at Disneyland," Ms. Sommer said.

The merry-go-round will also have a bench-style seat where adults accompanying their child can sit. Students said the flooring of the equipment "will be paint or recycled tire so they don’t slip as much."

However, the students' assignment did not end with the design.

"We usually want to reach out to some professionals and talk to them and get some feedback from them," said Landon Slyter, a 7th grader with Robo Gators. "So we decided to present to a bunch of (city) boards."

Sommer said the students pitched their design to the cities of Davenport, Moline and East Moline among others. However, there was one city that saw an immediate opportunity.

"I’ve never heard of that before," said Silvis' city administrator Jim Grafton. "So… we’re gonna try it!"

"Once I heard that he was going to put it on the budget I was like “what?” I mean that’s crazy," said Slyter.

"I would never think that it would get this far," Pfaff said.

"They can take some pride knowing that they were involved in implementing a project in our city that many can use for years to come," said Grafton.

Grafton said now it is just a matter of "getting it ordered and getting it installed."

He estimates the equipment will cost $10,000 and said there are plans to have it installed by this summer.

The new merry-go-round will go in Schadt Park, one of the city's busiest parks, where ADA accessible equipment already exists.

"I want to try and be a role model for kids out there and let them know they can do this. They can get this into their community," said Slyter.

"What a great world it would be if kids could just stay kids and continue to find solutions to problems," said Sommer.