New Brunswick

Grade 6 inventor in Fredericton helps people with disabilities

A young student in Fredericton is using her brain to help people with disabilities.

Lily Dolan has invented headphones that can help people build their neck muscles

Lily Dolan has been working on her headphones project since she was in the the fifth grade. (Philip Drost/CBC)

A young student in Fredericton is using her brain to help people with disabilities.

Lily Dolan has created headphones that encourage people with neck problems to keep their heads up. If they don't, the music won't play. 

"I wanted to help people who have cerebral palsy at the Stan Cassidy Centre to lift their heads up," said Dolan.

"It would motivate them to lift their heads up and not keep their heads down."

The Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation in Fredericton is a provincial centre that treats the most complex neurological conditions.       

When the rod on the back of the head connects with the tinfoil, the music will play in the headphones. (Philip Drost/CBC)
Dolan is in the sixth grade at École Sainte-Anne, but she's been working on the project since she was in Grade 5.

"In this case we asked Lily if she could make something that would keep everyone happy when they're doing their rehab," said Josh Keys, a rehabilitation engineer with the Stan Cassidy Centre.

"She's made something so that we can have the music play whenever they have their head up, so they can work on their neck muscles."

The invention came as part of a partnership between the non-profit organization Brilliant Labs, which operates in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and the rehab centre.

A call ws put out for young inventors to build something that would help people with disabilities, and Brilliant Labs provided the equipment to allow the students to do so. 

Dolan was the only student to follow the project through to completion.

More to come

Dolan is now working on a new model of the device that she said will look better and be more portable. She's taking it to the school district science fair.

Josh Keys of the Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation in Fredericton has been working with Lily Dolan to help make her device something that will work for patients. (Philip Drost/CBC)
Right now the headphones only play one song, the Charlie Brown theme song. It was the only file small enough to work in the device. Dolan is hoping she will be able to use a larger file in the next version.

This isn't Dolan's first invention. She has also dabbled in household cleanup. 

"When I was in the fourth grade I invented a robot that would sweep your floor," said Dolan. 

"But it was just a prototype. It didn't work very well."