Modified machine helps the disabled shoot hoops

Volunteers from GE Aviation, through the GE Volunteers Network, partnered with a Sandusky company to give the Butler County Board of Developmental Disabilities a basketball shooting machine, enabling

users to shoot basketball with a flip of a switch and touch of a button.

The idea stemmed from helping those with disabilities participate in the board’s annual community basketball game.

“A couple of years ago (GE) asked us what they wanted,” said Sherry Dillon, the board’s community services director. “We have a community basketball game we play every year and we have folks that can’t shoot the basketball.”

Dillon said that those with disabilities were assisted onto the court and got help shooting. With the new machine, the help is not needed.

“Everyone has been very happy with it,” Dillon said.

The machine was donated by Shootaway, a company in Sandusky that specializes in machines that rebound basketballs and shoots them back out to the player shooting baskets.

Numerous professional and college basketball teams use Shootaway’s machines.

Inenhe Khalid, an engineer at GE Aviation, said he found a research project online by an Ohio State University student for a basketball shooter machine. He sent the plans for the shooter to Shootaway, saying he wanted its machine to do the reverse of what it was intended to do — shoot a basketball toward the goal, instead of collecting balls from the goal and returning them to a uman shooter.

A few months later, Shootaway delivered the machine, donating it to the board. GE bought the return system, which includes a net to catch a shot ball and a return track to get the ball back to the shooter.

The GE Volunteer Network has collaborated with the board for several years, completing projects at the Liberty Township facility, including a new ceiling for the gazebo and a garden.

“When the guys see us out here helping out they smile and want to come say ‘hi’ to us,” Khalid said.

Fellow GE Aviation engineer Nana Noel also assisted on the project and said the satisfaction of helping is why she volunteers.

“You can see that you’re delivering something that the community uses, enjoys and benefits from,” Noel said.

Dillon said she has no idea what other sports could use a machine to help those with disabilities participate, but is excited about the possibilities.

“It kind of depends on the next puzzle we give GE,” she said.

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