AFCD Donates Weighted Blankets to Ashland Middle School Students


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Staff Report


Carly Carver, Director of the Ashland Foundation for Children with Disabilities and Editor of the Greater Ashland Beacon, presented Ashland Middle School students with 10 weighted blankets on Friday to be utilized in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow 2020 submission.


   The Ashland Foundation for Children with Disabilities donated weighted blankets to Ashland Middle School students to create emergency kits for special-needs children to utilize during a fire or school emergency, as part of the next Samsung Solve for Tomorrow submission.

   Ashland Middle School is no stranger to the public eye with their award-winning and innovative ideas for Samsung’s Solve for Tomorrow projects. AMS is a three-time Kentucky-state champions in the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition, earning their school $150,000 ,as well as computer equipment for the school. AMS’s award-winning ideas have even received national attention from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Good Morning America.

   AMS students are now entering the contest once again, for their latest project – innovative solutions to ensure all students are evacuated on time in case of an emergency.

   “This project came to light when Mr. Leister had some kids upstairs exploring in a bit of a think-tank, thinking ‘What do we do in the event of an emergency in the school? How do we go about getting all students out?’,” said David Sparks, who teaches App Creators, Green Architecture, Energy and the Environment, and Magic of Electrons. “The policy is Shelter in Place. Keep the students inside in a safe room until emergency personnel can come and get them out.”

   The students did a trial run, with able-bodied students evacuated in 3 minutes, children who couldn’t use stairs, such as wheelchair-bound students, had to remain sheltered in place until firefighters responded, taking approximately 17 minutes.

   Sparks said the students consulted with different medical experts and professionals for feedback and to help develop the project.

   “Now we have a prototype wheelchair-type device to help get people from one location to another safely,” said Sparks. “We also developed an app that helps us monitor students location in real-time, depending on their level of disability, whether there is a Shelter in Place, and importing information in there based off conditions such as a broken leg, Autism, Asthma, or things like that. We included things that aren’t just physical, but maybe emotional.”

   The prototype wheelchair can walk down the stairs, allowing students to be evacuated – eliminating 12 minutes off response and getting those students evacuated in 5 minutes.

   John Leistner, who is part of the Student-Technology Leadership Program for the past 16 years, said that along with the prototype wheelchair, and innovative app, the students created emergency kits to go in each stairwell that includes eye wear, noise-reduction headphones, and the weighted blankets donated by the AFCD.

   Carly Carver, director of the AFCD, said she was honored to meet the AMS students and see such inclusive and innovative ideas coming from Ashland’s youth.

   “I’m glad we could be part of this in a small way,” said Carver. “We should all be incredibly proud of these students.”

   “The weighted blankets are known to calm people down and help them relax,” said Leistner. “These will be a calming effect. We want to try to eliminate the possibility of students in these situations taking off due to the overwhelming noise, confusion, and stimuli in the environment.”

   The emergency kits and prototype may also be coming to other schools outside of AMS. The app has already been adapted district wide.

   “Our students recently visited some local school districts about possibly adopting our app and looking at our prototypes,” said Sparks.

   “We’ve met with Boyd County and Raceland, along with other principals in our district,” said Leistner.

   Leister said that he’s even been told that AMS is continually asked about at the Samsung Headquarters in South Korea from leaders wanting to know what’s next for the school.

   The AKY Design Shop, a local company that specializes in unique photography prints in and around Ashland by Josh Blanton, donated 10 percent of all purchases to the Ashland Foundation for Children with Disabilities during the Christmas season.

   The AKY Design Shop was able to raise enough for AFCD to purchase 10 weighted blankets from Namaste Hand Made Weighted Blankets, who generously discounted their pricing for the nonprofit purchase. These blankets were donated to the AMS project.

   Blanton, whom is also the plant-manager for Vesuvius USA in Wurtland, accompanied Carver to meet the AMS students and learn more about the emergency kits and the prototype wheelchair.

   “I think it’s a great project,” said Blanton. “It addresses a real need but it’s also an innovative solution. It’s pretty neat the way this wheelchair design came about and being in the manufacturing world I can appreciate that.”

   Blanton said that the students addressing a need that many people don’t think about, and evacuation, is truly note-worthy.

“It’s pretty exciting,” said Blanton.

   To purchase from Namaste Hand Made Weighted Blankets, visit The company has a variety of weighted blankets, lap pads, and more all custom designed and hand made.