Alex Sol wanted to share his love for soccer with everyone, including people who couldn’t play because of an amputation. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Alex Sol wanted to share his love for soccer with everyone, including people who couldn’t play because of an amputation. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Langley student designs sporty prosthetic as school project

Passions for soccer, engineering, and biology put together in mechanical leg

By Bob Groeneveld/Special to the Langley Advance Times

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At first, it’s difficult to accept that what 17-year-old Alex Sol is talking about is just a school project.

But then, the prosthetic limb he holds in his hands – designed to allow a below-the-knee amputee play soccer – wasn’t “just” a class assignment.

It was a Capstone project, and the culmination of inspiration from his teacher, Kristian Lay, who “helped us focus on our passions and doing something that we were really interested in.”

“We were encouraged to do a project that we were passionate about, that we were interested in, and that we could build off of for our futures,” explained Sol, who is planning to study mechanical engineering on a soccer scholarship at UBC Okanagan next year. “So I wanted to combine my interest in soccer and engineering and biology, and try and figure out something that could help other people.

The Langley Fundamental Middle & Secondary School student has a friend, a Surrey United soccer club teammate, whose mother has a prosthetic leg “that kept her from playing soccer for the past few years,” he said.

He decided that designing a leg that someone like her could use would be a good project.

The Capstone project requirements meant he needed to work with a mentor.

“I got lucky in that my neighbour, Arnout Stams, is a physiotherapist with expertise in biomechanics,” said Sol. “He was able to get a real prosthetic for me from a clinic nearby.”

There was very little ankle movement in the prosthetic’s “very rigid structure,” said Sol, “which would make it hard to do basic soccer movements like running and kicking and stuff like that. We wanted to make something that had ankle movement and also maximum comfort and functionality, including the comfort around the leg, and the weight of the prosthetic.”

Adam Moore, Sol’s principal at LFM&S, has only praise for one of his prize students.

“He’s a champion for the underdog, a wonderful student, and a key member of this community.”

“What was particularly admirable,” Moore explained, “was that this was what Alex decided to pursue as his Capstone project. He’s got two working legs, but he’s also very passionate about soccer, so he thought, ‘How can other people who have a struggle that I don’t have enjoy soccer in ways that I do?’ So he created a prosthetic leg that’s specifically designed to play soccer.”

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Sol also made an impression on Langley School District instructional services director Dawne Tomlinson when she met him at a showcase of learning at LFM&S. “I’ve invited him to our Ideas Summit this year in May, which celebrates students’ innovations, designs, entrepreneurship, and altruism.”

She said Sol is one of a number of students who have been “doing really cool things” through the new Capstone program.

She spoke with a Mountain Secondary student who is being mentored by a filmmaker whom she contacted through Twitter.

Another Langley Fundamental student who connected with an interior designer at the home show, and another student who “had always wanted to build something” created blueprints and had them approved through Langley Township for a garage on his parents’ property.

“Capstone is really the culmination of really knowing oneself, knowing one’s strength, knowing one’s passions and interests and putting those together and to something that they really have to dig in to create or share out,” Tomlinson said.

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Certainly, Alex Sol is a fan of the program.

“If someone was to take it on as something that they’re really passionate about, to do a project on something that really interested you,” he said, “then it would be a lot more engaging and enjoyable, and you would eventually come out with a better product, something that you’re more proud of. That’s something that helped me. If I did just any random project, it might have been a lot of work that I didn’t want to do, but I did enjoy the process and working with all the people that I worked with.”

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Alex Sol, a Langley Fundamental school student, wanted to share his love for soccer with everyone, including people who couldn’t play because of an amputation. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Alex Sol, a Langley Fundamental school student, wanted to share his love for soccer with everyone, including people who couldn’t play because of an amputation. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Alex Sol wanted to share his love for soccer with everyone, including people who couldn’t play because of an amputation. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)

Alex Sol wanted to share his love for soccer with everyone, including people who couldn’t play because of an amputation. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)