Parker Sebens gets NDSU-engineered kayak for summer

When Parker Sebens of Milnor, North Dakota lost his arms in a farm accident back in 2000, his life changed forever. But one thing didn't change, his love for lake life.

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(From left to right) NDSU Mechanical Engineering students, Pater Yanta, Logan Ryan, Nathan Fuder and Alex Eull stand in the NDSU pool as Parker Sebens tries out a kayak the students designed for him. Parker lost his arms in a 2000 farm accident. NDSU engineering instructor Ala Amiri was adviser for the project.

FARGO — At North Dakota State University on Monday, April 24, a group of NDSU mechanical engineering students used a swimming pool to test a new tool for Parker Sebens.

The project started in the fall of 2022 when Scheels in Fargo donated a kayak so that NDSU mechanical engineering students could use it for a massive senior project which got tested and unveiled on Monday.

A student's grandparent's garage became the headquarters for turning an ordinary kayak into an amazing dream machine for 26-year old Sebens, who 23 years ago, lost his arms in a farm accident. He was just 3.

He has adjusted to many daily life challenges, including marriage and two kids. But kayaking at the lake in the summer, one of his favorite activities, has been limited until Monday.

The NDSU mechanical engineering students tested out the kayak and let Sebens do the work.


The kayak features a modification unit which has a series of belts and cables that Sebens can control with his shoulders. It's all about rudder control.

The students were impressed as Sebens skipped across the NDSU pool.

"It was cool, that was very cool," said NDSU engineering student Peter Yanta.

"We wanted to make sure that we were able to do things to be able to move the rudder up and out of the way," said NDSU engineering student Logan Ryan.

Until now, Sebens had been using a series of ropes that he would tie around his shoulders to control the rudder on his lake kayak, but not anymore.

"It's fantastic. I love the idea that he's just going to be able to be out with all of his friends, and not have his previous system, which was ropes, just causing him that pain anymore. It's going to be really cool to hopefully hear a lot of good stories that come from this, and the fun that he has with it," said NDSU engineering student Alex Eull.

The team of students credit their engineering professor Ali Amiri, who mentored them through this project. They appreciate that Sebens trusted them to come up with such a unique challenge.

"I think it's the nice perk of living in a place like Fargo. Because you reach out to one person and they might know somebody else and then, in a roundabout way, you all kind of get linked together through the (same) passion," Sebens said.


"It was all about his enjoyment at the end of the day, so to hear that he actually likes it is probably the biggest accomplishment," said NDSU engineering student Nathan Fuder.

The NDSU Engineering students will showcase the kayak at a special Senior Design Expo on Thursday, May 4, at the NDSU Student Union.

Kevin Wallevand has been a Reporter at WDAY-TV since 1983. He is a native of Vining, Minnesota in Otter Tail County. His series and documentary work have brought him to Africa, Vietnam, Haiti, Kosovo, South America, Mongolia, Juarez,Mexico and the Middle East. He is an multiple Emmy and national Edward R. Murrow award recipient.

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