Scouts BSA Life Scout, Jacob Gates-Ehlers (a.k.a. Jake) from Troop 209 in the Pathway to Adventure Council, drove his wheelchair down to the rifle range with his mom Betsy like he did in years past, but this year was different. He would be able to use a 0.22 rifle to shoot at targets by himself using a Robotic platform that was designed by Crown Point, and Portage Indiana VEX VRC Robotics students. 

The story begins last year, on September 10, 2022, when Jake drove his wheelchair down to the rifle range at Scouts BSA’s – Pathway to Adventure Council’s - Camp Frank S. Betz with his mom to have fun shooting 0.22 rifles at the range. Jake and his mom listened to the NRA instructors and when directed, Jake drove up to a shooting bench while his mom stood by his side. His mom
would play a critical role as she would hold the rifle on the shooting bench, while Jake whispered in her ear “Up, Down, Left, Right, shoot…” Mr. Nick Crnokrak (Eagle Scout, NRA Instructor, and prior Robotics Mentor) was helping Jake and his mom that day, ensuring that they were safe, and that
Jake had a great time. But when Mr. Crnokrak left Camp that night, he started thinking that there might be an alternative way for Jake to shoot a rifle safely at the range by himself.

Fast forward to March of 2023, when Gage Bagwell, Cameron Mucha, and Daniel Crnokrak were in the family room at the Crnokrak’s home, playing with a new 3D printer and talking about Daniel and Cameron’s trip to the VEX World Robotics Championships that would occur at the end of 
April in Dallas, Texas. Mr. Crnokrak walked by and asked the three students a question. “How hard would it be to design a platform to allow Jake to shoot a rifle on his own?” The three students were intrigued and asked Mr. Crnokrak several questions. The students drafted the prototype on paper within an hour. In the next couple of weeks, they would design, build, program, and test the prototype to ensure it would work safely and properly while having the functions needed for Jake to control the platform. They would meet Jake at Camp Betz a week before the shooting event to ensure the platform would fit on the shooting benches and get feedback from Jake on the controller portion. (Jake has limited mobility in his hands but can use a joystick and press a button.) Jake signed off on the controller design and the students went back to work 3D printing housings for the platform circuit boards and controller boxes to house the joystick and firing button for Jake. 

On May 13, 2023, at 1:00 PM on the Camp Frank S. Betz rifle range, Jake could safely look down the rifle's iron sights, aim the rifle towards the target, and fire the rifle when he was ready. Jake did this multiple times all while his mom and grandmother sat in chairs taking pictures and videos, of Jake independently shooting on his own. Jake, his mom, and his grandmother expressed their gratefulness to everyone that helped make this day a memorable one. Everyone in attendance left with big smiles and a sense of accomplishment because they made a giving back.