2017-05-04 / Family

Devising a device for dad

Student’s school creation makes real impact
By Dawn Megli-Thuna


BALANCE AID—Canon Hayes, a fourth-grader at Walnut Elementary School in Newbury Park, was one of several members of Conejo Valley Unified’s gifted program that took part in the Invention Convention last month at Madroña Elementary. Canon, 10, created a prosthetic foot—dubbed the Can Stand—for his father, an amputee. 
DIANNE AVERY/Acorn Newspapers BALANCE AID—Canon Hayes, a fourth-grader at Walnut Elementary School in Newbury Park, was one of several members of Conejo Valley Unified’s gifted program that took part in the Invention Convention last month at Madroña Elementary. Canon, 10, created a prosthetic foot—dubbed the Can Stand—for his father, an amputee. DIANNE AVERY/Acorn Newspapers Medical foam, a hinge, a bracket, a bolt, a nut, a washer and a tension spring.

At first glance, 10-year-old Canon Hayes’ invention doesn’t seem like much. But for his dad, David, it’s a big step forward.

In the ICU seven years ago after a pacemaker was inserted in his chest cavity, the 61-year-old Hayes, a Vietnam veteran, developed a staph infection in his feet that was resistant to even the strongest of medications.

The only treatment: amputation of his toes, first on his left foot, then this July, his right.

Following surgery, the foam prosthetics he used to fill his shoes were not effective at giving his 6-foot-8 frame the stability he needed. Falling became a constant concern.

So when young Canon, a fourth-grader at Walnut Elementary in Newbury Park, was challenged earlier this school year with coming up with an invention for Conejo Valley Unified School District’s inaugural Invention Convention, he decided to make his father an improved prosthetic using insoles he found around the house.

“I wanted to help my dad,” he said. “Daily things are hard for him because he can’t balance.”

Canon’s prosthetic, known as the Can Stand, was on display last week at the convention at Madroña Elementary.

The event is geared to provide a creative STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and technology) outlet for high-achieving third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students and those enrolled in the district’s Gifted and Talented Education program.

The creations serve a range of practical purposes, from driving simulators to budgeting tools to shade accessories for baseball caps.

Superintendent Ann Bonitatibus said Invention Convention started in response to local survey results indicating parents felt the district provided gifted and talented education in name only.

“We wanted to find a way to tap their creative juices,” she told the Acorn at the convention. “Are you not blown away?”

Participants had to identify a problem to solve, come up with a solution, create the invention and share it at the convention. The purpose was to give students an introduction to the engineering design process, including patent research and conceptual models.

And just like any other inventors, students had to produce prototypes.

The Can Stand prototype looks like a shoe insole with a piece of foam attached where the toes would be.

Canon’s invention has already moved beyond the prototype phase: His father, saying the device works just as intended, is wearing it.

“It gives me more balance,” said Hayes, who walks with a slight limp. He had previously used prosthetics made by the Veterans Administration and a local prosthetics company.

Walnut Principal Aileen Wall said the best part of the youngster’s invention is the heart behind it.

“I was really touched by Canon’s project,” she said. “I love that his idea was motivated by compassion for a family member.”

Hayes said that compassion is likely the result of watching his father’s failing health. Canon has seen his dad rushed from the house in an ambulance five times and once witnessed him in full cardiac arrest.

“He’s gone through everything with me and he’s been through his own stuff, too,” Hayes said. “He’s a tough little cookie. He has a good heart.”

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