A devoted mom
Mother designs a pneumatic device that allows her wheelchair-bound son to hit a baseball.
Lukus Ognibene, 11, uses a wheelchair equipped with a HandiBat to take a swing at a baseball. The HandiBat, developed by Lukus’ mother, Jenne, is a pneumatic system that uses compressed air to swing a bat. David Stone photo
By DAVID STONE, Our Town Temple
Lukus Ognibene loved baseball and playing the sport with his brother Tyler. But Lukus was born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, a disorder that leads to muscle deterioration that worsens over time.
Carriers of the disease have a 50-50 chance of passing the disorder to their children. Lukus has it. Tyler does not.
“It’s a disease that runs in the family,” said Jenne Ognibene, the boys’ mother, and an engineering student and workforce trainer at Temple College. “I have three brothers who have struggled with this disease.”
Eleven-year-old Lukus hasn’t been able to walk since December, and he struggles to hold a bat. He’s confined to a wheelchair and hasn’t been able to play ball in months — until now.
Thanks to his mom’s hard work, determination and ingenuity, Lukus is again taking his cuts.
Jenne’s dad, Douglas Fleming, had an idea for equipping a wheelchair with a device that would allow kids like Lukus to bat. It was just an idea.
“I’m taking manufacturing and engineering courses, and one of my classes is in Temple College’s Prototype Lab,” she said. “I got to thinking about my dad’s idea, and decided I was going to equip a wheelchair with a pneumatic system that would allow Lukus to hit a baseball.”
Jenne partnered with fellow students Lori Kliebert and Mauricio Leza, and the three went to work.
“Lori did a lot of research into the project, and Mauricio did much of the computer-aided design,” she said. “Our hard work paid off. I have a true passion for making adaptions for people with disabilities.”
The pneumatic batting attachment — officially dubbed the HandiBat — works with pressurized air provided by an air compressor or tank.
“Eventually we will equip the wheelchair with an air tank so we don’t have to carry one to the batter’s box,” Jenne said. “It will be part of the batting chair.”
The bat — Lukus uses a Louisville Slugger — is attached to the compressed air source and the wheelchair, and it is activated by a button that starts the swing. The bat is set for T-ball, but the angle of the swing can be manipulated for actual baseball.
“At some point, I’d like to design something similar for tennis,” she said. “We’re working to get it patented, but we want to keep it as affordable as possible — special-needs families have enough expenses.”
Jenne and her HandiBat teammates are part of the Temple College SkillsUSA STEM Club that won top honors in a statewide competition and will advance to a national competition this summer in Atlanta. The HandiBat team won first place in Engineering Technology Design.
“I am so proud of these students and the way they’ve competed at this high level,” said Dr. Sandra Melendez, chair of Temple College’s Department of Engineering Technology and the club’s advisor.
“They are proof that STEM students from a variety of backgrounds can work individually and collectively to innovate and create products that will better their communities and the world,” Melendez said. “We hope their love for engineering technology — and the success they’re experiencing — will inspire others to pursue educational opportunities in STEM.”
One of the workstations in the Lowe’s Prototype Lab at Temple College is shown above. The equipment, tools and tool boxes in the lab were obtained through a $15,000 grant from Lowe’s. This is where Jenne Ognibene, Lori Kliebert and Mauricio Leza — TC students and STEM Club members — designed and built the HandiBat, a pneumatic device that allows disabled people to hit a baseball while in a wheelchair. David Stone photo
WEDNESDAY | APRIL 27, 2022
Issue discovered with Salado ballots
Our Town Temple
Shortly after polling places opened Tuesday morning for the first day of early voting, the Bell County Elections Department received word that there was an issue with the race for Salado Public Library District Trustee.
According to James Stafford, Bell County’s public information officer, the race appeared on the ballots for all voters within the Village of Salado; however, it was missing for voters outside the village but within the Salado Independent School District.
Proofs of ballots were mailed to the Village of Salado, Salado Independent School District and the Salado Public Library District on April 6, Stafford said. Both the library and school district made slight edits to the proofs, but no mention was made of the race not appearing on the Salado ISD ballot.
Elections Department staff contacted the Texas Secretary of State’s Office by 8 a.m. to consult on how best to proceed.
“Our desire was to create a provisional ballot for voters who voted Monday but were unable to vote on the race,” Interim Elections Administrator Shay Luedeke said. “However, the Secretary of State told us that was not an option, and that no one would be allowed to vote a second time.”
To address the issue moving forward, the Elections Department is creating an emergency paper ballot, which will be used by all Salado ISD voters outside of the village. These ballots will be utilized for all remaining days of early voting and on Election Day. They will be hand-counted by the Ballot Review Board.
TODAY’S BEST BETS :
Leopard Fest, a lunch-hour hamburger sale from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at Danny Scott Sport Complex at Temple College. Tickets are $10 for a hamburger, chips, a drink and two chances to win prizes. Proceeds benefit Leopard athletic programs.Want a little baseball with your burger? TC hosts Weatherford College at noon. Tickets may be purchased the day of the event. Prizes will include a $20 gift card to Blaze Pizza, a free one-hour massage at Myo Massage, movie passes to Cinemark and Grand Avenue theaters, and a free small item at Jeremiah’s Italian ice. For more information about this event, contact Clarissa Martinez at (254) 298-8767 or email Temple College at Alumni@templejc.edu
Comedy Open Mic at Corky's. 7:30 p.m. signup, 8 p.m. show.
To include your events in What’s Happening, email information to OurTownTemple@gmail.com. Photos are welcome to for use in the publication as space permits!
What was the name given to Temple’s 50th birthday party?
ANSWER AT END OF TODAY’S ISSUE
On this day in 1895, the final issue of the weekly newspaper Rolling Stone was published in Austin. The Rolling Stone was the first publication of William Sydney Porter, better known as O. Henry, who purchased the press of William Cowper Brann's Iconoclast. The first issue of the Rolling Stone appeared on April 28, 1894. In the paper, Porter lampooned local politicians, social customs, business practices, the performing arts, and other local and state targets. Some of his own short stories were first published in the Rolling Stone. He may have kept the paper alive with money embezzled from the First National Bank, where he worked as a teller. After being accused of the crime, he resigned and, without an income, was unable to continue publishing.
| | | | | | |
On this day in 1907, a tornado hit Hemming, Texas, killing seven people and wiping out all but one of the town's buildings. Hemming, in southern Cooke County, was established in 1889 and named for the donor of its school land. A store and cotton gin were built there in 1894, and that year a post office opened in the store. At its height just after 1900, Hemming had two general stores, a school, a cotton gin, a blacksmith shop, three churches, and a population of 125. The town served as the region's cotton-processing center. During the peak years of the cotton boom after 1900 the Hemming cotton gin handled 1,000 to 1,500 bales annually. But the 1907 tornado devastated the community. Though several of its buildings were rebuilt, by the early 1920s Hemming was in decline. By the late 1980s the town was no longer shown on county highway maps.
OurTownTemple@gmail.com | (254) 231-1574
TODAY’S TEMPLE TRIVIA ANSWER: Pioneer Day was first held in 1931 as an observance of Temple’s 50 years as a city. Pioneer Day was held for decades but eventually was discontinued.
Our Town Temple is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a paid subscriber.