Northeast Passage Makes Television Show Debut- Twice
By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
July 9, 2008
Northeast Passage athletes Devan Kucker (green shirt) and Cole Hunter (yellow) will appear on the PBS television show Fetch, whose producers came to UNH last week to film them playing basketball. Chandler Bullard (gray shirt), program assistant for Northeast Passage, is right with basketball.
Northeast Passage participants playing quad rugby or wheelchair basketball
aren’t an unusual sight at the Hamel Rec Center but there was something
different about the games going on last week: a film crew followed the players
around the court.
The sports demos were being shot for two PBS television shows produced by
Boston’s WGBH. Fetch, part game show, part reality show, features animated
host Ruff Ruffman who presents real kids with assorted challenges that make
learning about science fun. The show Design Squad has contestants vying for
a $10,000 college scholarship based on their engineering skills.
After seeing a televised segment on Northeast Passage’s Similarity Awareness
program, the producers of Fetch contacted the UNH-based group for help on an
episode involving a wheelchair challenge.
Two Design Squad teams—past projects include designing an underwater
prosthetic for an amputee dancer and making cardboard furniture for IKEA—were
charged with building a quad rugby chair. Producers wanted to include footage
of an actual game to unveil the chairs and test the designs.
Photo by Keely Ames
“We thought this was a great opportunity to showcase Northeast Passage,
to let people know what we offer and what the kids can do,” Keely
Ames, Northeast Passage development assistant, said of the organization’s
The Fetch filming had two able-bodied kids playing wheelchair basketball against
two kids who play sports with Northeast Passage. Chandler Bullard, program
assistant for Northeast Passage, served as host, giving the Fetch players a
few pointers before the game and taping began.
“Chandler’s been teaching them the science behind the activities,” Ames
said. “He also worked with them on the track, where they raced in the
wheelchairs then let the air out of the tires and raced again for comparison.”
The Design Squad teams built a chair for a quad rugby player who wanted someone
to practice against.
“Think robot,” Ames said. “The sensor on her chair allows
the other chair to seek her out and hit her—quad rugby is all about contact.
She wanted an autonomous chair that could simulate the moves of a defensive
player. Because the sport is co-ed and she can be playing against stronger,
larger men, she wanted to be able to practice maneuvering and hitting on her
own. This is where the robot chair came in.”
The wheelchairs used in quad rugby are specially modified for the sport. Design
Squad students brought two newly-designed chairs with them. Both moved independently
and tracked the players on the court, allowing them to practice maneuvering
with a “robot chair” in pursuit.
“Both chairs shut down after big hits, but the contestants were able
to get them moving again and the player resumed practice,” Ames said.
Participating on both shows provided another opportunity to tell people about
Northeast Passage, which offers innovative therapeutic recreation services,
disability-related health promotion and adapted sports programs throughout
Northeast Passage is a program of UNH’s College of Health and Human
Services and is an affiliate of Disabled Sports USA.
The TV shows will air sometime in September 2009.