A fundraiser for a student who is on my Robotics and Envirothon teams. Please share the story and the link. Any support you can give through the crowd rise site is appreciated!

To Whom it May Concern,

I am writing to ask for the support of a young man named Bryan Riley. Bryan was diagnosed very early with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a degenerative genetic disease affecting only about 16 in every 100,000 boys. I remember Bryan as a first grader being able to walk from his classroom to my program for gifted students at Jay Elementary School. I would bring his wheel chair along as we walked the hallway, just in case he got tired, but young Bryan never opted to take a ride. He had a fierce desire to be seen as a normally abled person. As I have continued to work with Bryan, I have witnessed the changes in his body that today, as a freshman at Spruce Mountain High School, have relegated him to a motorized wheel chair. I also am witness to a boy with an unbroken spirit, an exceptional intellectual capacity, and a continued fierce desire to be treated like everyone else!

Bryan is a very active student, participating in Spruce Mountain High School Robotics, Math Team, and Envirothon extra curricular programs. Bryan had surgery in the summer of 2013 and metal rods were inserted along his spine for support. He has a limited range of motion in his power chair that will only worsen over time, but there is help available! A Jaco robotic arm will provide Bryan with the assistive technology he needs to maintain his independence, providing him with a range of movement and the ability to perform daily tasks that most of us take for granted. For a young man with a passion for robotics, it is fitting that robotic assistance may provide Bryan with the tools he needs to remain active in our school community.

Bryan and his family have never been people to ask for help, but there is a real need for assistance. As a robotics team mentor, I understand that the kind of assistance Bryan requires does not come cheaply. A Crowdrise fundraising campaign has been started to raise the $40,000 needed to provide the robotic arm Bryan needs. Please visit www.crowdrise.com/BryanRiley/fundraiser to learn more about Bryan, the fundraising campaign, and the Jaco robotic arm. Please help share Bryan’s story. Whatever assistance you can provide will be truly appreciated!


Robert Taylor

Maine Regional School Unit 73 Gifted and Talented Coordinator

Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Teams Mentor

FIRST Robotics Competition Team #3930

FIRST LEGO League Teams #3483, #3484, #3485, & #3486

Advisor – Spruce Mountain High School Envirothon Team

Robotic helping hand offers new options for Spruce Mountain High School student

Bryan Riley uses the JACO robotic arm to lift a plastic model of a box that he created using a 3D printer. The robotics team is using tiny boxes and barrels to strategize for an upcoming competition.

JAY – The Spruce Mountain school district may have one of the most comprehensive public school robotics programs in the state.

Consider: a student can participate in LEGO League-based summer camps as early as fourth grade, moving on to the LEGO League team in middle school and graduate to the Spruce Mountain Area Robotics Team in high school. That program costs more than $20,000 annually (not counting sending students to the New England-level of the competition) much of which is collected via fundraising, which means when students aren’t programming or designing mechanisms that shoot Frisbees or hoist crates, they’re working to raise money.

Dan Lemieux, team coach for SMART, also teaches a pre-engineering course at Spruce Mountain High School. “It’s an intensive program for the students,” he said. “They’re involved with it every weekend.”

So a hypothetical student could start at age 9 and be involved with robotics through high school. Years and years of robotics.

Bryan Riley pretty much is that hypothetical kid.

In addition to all the demands of the SMART team, Lemieux said, Riley works as a programming expert and judge for the LEGO League. He printed tiny, to-scale models of the crates that SMART intends to use to plan their team’s strategy at this year’s FIRST Robotics Competition. Riley printed the models using a 3D printer.

On Thursday afternoon a number of students, many of them involved with robotics in one way or another, gathered in the high school gymnasium to watch Riley demonstrate a different piece of technology.

Riley has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), a degenerative genetic disease affecting only about 16 in every 100,000 boys. He lost the ability to walk at 12. In a wheelchair, he uses a green plastic stick with a rubber tip to open doors. Thursday, he rolled his wheelchair toward the bleachers with a shiny, black arm attached to its side. It represented, teacher Robert Taylor suggested to the students, “probably a significant increase in technology from a green stick.”

Representatives of Kinova Robotics traveled from Montreal to provide Riley with JACO, an arm designed for individuals with upper body extremity mobility. Named after Jacques Forest, a Canadian robotics expert who had Muscular Dystrophy and invented a wheelchair-mounted arm in the early 1990s, the device can lift up to 2 pounds fully extended with three, articulated fingers.

Riley demonstrated this by picking up objects and holding the presenters’ microphone, despite have only 15 minutes of experience. The plan is to get him a lot more.

The JACO arm costs $40,000. A fundraising campaign is underway, organized principally around a crowdrise site. The site includes information on how to donate to Riley’s family.

Additionally, there will be a benefit spaghetti supper at Spruce Mountain High School from 4:30-6:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 28. Cost is $6 per person or $20/family. The dinner coincides with Rare Disease Day.

Bryan Riley uses the JACO to lift a rubber square.

Bryan Riley with Dan Lemieux, left, Robert Taylor and mother Tina Riley.

Scale-model crates, along with the real thing. This year's team needs to design a robot to stack crates.

Freshman Bryan Riley tests JACO robotic arm prototype


Freshman Bryan Riley of Jay uses the JACO2 assistive robotic device to open a handicap-accessible door between Spruce Mountain High School and the middle school. Movement of the arm is controlled by the wheelchair joystick he can be seen holding.

JAY — Spruce Mountain High School freshman Bryan Riley of Jay, who was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, hasn’t been able to walk for several years. On Thursday, Bryan had a chance to test the prototype for the JACO2 assistive robotic arm.


Bryan Riley, a Jay freshman at Spruce Mountain High School, is shown picking up a cube with the help of the JACO2 assistive robotic arm. He tested the prototype for an arm his family hopes to purchase for him to give him more mobility. Teacher Rob Taylor and Kinova company representative Laurie Paquet are also shown.


Spruce Mountain High School freshman Bryan Riley shakes hands with middle school student Daniel Nolan using the JACO2 assistive robotic device. Bryan’s family is hoping to purchase the arm to provide him with more mobility.

The JACO2, made by Kinova, a company based in Montreal, has been marketed since 2010 and is helping individuals worldwide.

High school students in the robotics program at Spruce Mountain watched Bryan use the JACO2 arm and learned more about the device.

Kinova representative Laurie Paquet informed the students that the device is named for Jacques Forest, a Canadian inventor and one of Kinova President Charles Deguire’s three uncles, all of whom have muscular dystrophy and are unable to move their upper bodies.

Forest created his first wheelchair-mounted robotic arm in the early 1990s. His inspiration led to the development of the JACO2.

The JACO2 gives those with limited upper-body movement a way to perform tasks without assistance. Objects can be retrieved from almost any angle because of the six degrees of motion built into the device. The arm features two fingers and a thumb that are coated with rubber and able to pick up a raw egg without breaking it.

The arm, constructed of strong carbon fibers, is operated using a wheelchair power controller.

A software program provides diagnostic tools should a problem arise with the device.

After just 15 minutes of practice, Bryan was able to move the arm in many different directions and pick up a large cube and a tiny block, which were created by a 3-D printer. He was even able to hold a microphone.

Teacher Rob Taylor said Bryan has been using a green stick with a rubber tip to open the wheelchair-accessible doors separating the high school and the middle school. Bryan passes from one building to the other daily to meet with Taylor and other mentor students in the Lego League program.

Taylor said the JACO2 is probably a “significant improvement in technology.”

Lego League students also had a chance to observe Bryan using the JACO2 and ask questions.

Student Daniel Nolan asked if the arm could shake hands with someone, and Bryan demonstrated that it was capable of doing so.

Another student asked if writing with the device was possible. Paquet said that a user in Switzerland paints with it, but that writing might be more challenging.

Bryan’s mom, Tina Riley, spoke of social media efforts to raise funds to purchase a JACO2 for Bryan. A Crowdrise fundraising website, www.crowdrise.com/BryanRiley/fundraiser, gives information about Bryan and the JACO2 arm, as well as ways to donate to the cause.

A Hat Day fundraiser raised over $100. A spaghetti supper and raffle will be held Feb. 28 at the school.

To date, almost $5,000 of the $40,000 needed has been raised.

Tina said Bryan isn’t used to doing a lot of things, but he is very resourceful. But he hasn’t yet stopped to consider what the JACO2 will allow him to do.

“Bryan doesn’t dwell on what he can’t do, but once he starts experimenting, he’ll see it will open up more possibilities,” she said.