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College student’s project helps Holzheimer regain outdoor independence

Posted at 10:04 PM, Jul 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-28 00:04:28-04

GREAT FALLS – Grayce Holzheimer was diagnosed with polio at a young age and as she gets older, she is losing her mobility. She’s unable to walk without assistance and was facing the reality she may not be able get on the trails anymore.

However, a student at Great Falls College-MSU helped change that perspective.

“I’ll be able to be outside a lot more and that’s my pain pill,” said Holzheimer.

College sophomore Ilaya Payne was able to motorize Holzheimer’s tricycle after her high school teacher and robotics mentor Chuck Merja recommended her for the job.

The next step was applying for the ARES Grant, which Payne was awarded that funded her time to work on the project. The ARES Grants are given by the Montana Space Grant Consortium and an anonymous donor paid for the supplies.

There were a lot of steps to getting the grant and then finishing the project, which took about eight months.

“We wanted to make it so that if she went on a trip, she would be able to get home easily, and not get stranded some place,” said Payne.

Holzheimer started losing her mobility a few years ago. She went from hiking often to not being able to walk on her own. “By putting the motor on, it allows me to get out and still get that endorphin rush, still get a little bit of exercise,” said Holzheimer.

And through the project, a friendship was also created.

“She’s benefiting from it, probably even more than I benefited from doing the project for her,” said Payne. “If I was in that kind of position, I would want as much access to everything I could possible get.”

Payne changed Holzheimer’s life: “I pretty much cry every day, because I’m so grateful,” said Holzheimer.

The tricycle motorization gave Payne a feel for the complete engineering design process, said Dr. Brenda Canine, science faculty at GFC MSU. Payne had to work with a client, set a budget, problem solve and deliver a final product on time.

“It was a good project for her because she got to see the entire engineering design process,” Canine said.

Payne plans to go into mechanical engineering through the 1+3 engineering transfer program, which allows students to start at Great Falls College-MSU and finish their degree at Montana State University in Bozeman.

Reporting by Kaley Collins for MTN News