On a Roll

Alicia Edquist, Advertising Manager/Lab Aide

Photography by Chad Uyeno

Yong LeeCerritos College machine tool technology student Yong Lee was shot after a robbery in New York that left him in a wheel chair. Now he is building a motor to help other maneuver more efficiently.

Humble, energetic, brilliant, fun and passionate about helping out others with disabilities those are a few words to describe Yong Lee.

He is a disabled student with a passion to help others with disabilities that may not be able to enjoy life to its fullest.

Lee is working on a gear reducer for his wheelchair in machine tool technology here on campus.

gear1Lee has also been taking other classes here at Cerritos College.

But Lee has always had a passion to fix things and put things together.

“I love to build things and work on sports cars and rebuilding engines,” Lee said.

Lee is 44 years old and has a degree from Korea, where he is originally from, but is looking to learn more about making and designing parts.

“I have been interesting in the class for awhile, but I mainly to start designing and making a gear reducer for my wheelchair,” Lee said.

He is making a special gear reducer for his wheelchair so his chair will be in first gear like a car would be. The reducer will make the chair go slower, but with more power.

gear2Lee came up with his idea for the gear reducer after he was in an accident.

“It was in 1992 in Manhattan, New York. I had a flower shop there and two robbers came inside the store and one shot me,” Lee said

That accident put Lee in the chair that he is in now, but he feels like the same person. He wants to do everything that everyone else can do normally.

“I want to make the reducer so I can be able to go up stairs, the sand at the beach and even in snow,” He said.

The reason for Lee making the reducer is for two reasons.

One for himself so he can do activities with his friends and family.

After the accident, he felt uncomfortable around friends and family. Sometimes his friends would go up stairs where there would be no elevator so he couldn’t join them.

Other times his family would go to the beach and the sand would be too hard to cross with the chair he is in now.

So he wanted to start working on the gear reducer that would make his dream as well as others come true.


One thing that is for sure this is probably not the best smelling classroom on campus. But the smell is a reflection of all the hard work that is being done in machine tool technology.

The smell oils and grease clear everyone’s sinuses and dominates the entire room as students begin to trickle in to class where all the hard work that Lee is doing is taking place.

Lee is sometimes one of the first to get to class. He starts by getting the program into the computer where the Master Cam is set-up and getting it loaded.

Then he sets out all the parts that need to be worked on for the day and gets the tools that he needs to work on the parts. He helps his assistant get all the materials and parts they will need for the job.

While his assistant readies the machine for the part and the program for cutting the part. Lee is very interested in what his assistant is doing with the machine and making sure the parts are where he wants them to be.

When the part is tightened into the machine, Lee goes to the computer inside the computer room to transfers the program. He inputs the program and the information for the cutting program goes across a wire into the computer of the Master Cam.

The computer lab inside ME 3 is where he designs and makes the programs for cutting the metal inside the machine.


Lee has an assistant helping him with the making of the parts.

Richard Moreno is a graduate of the program two years ago and is assisting Lee in this project.

The project was originally started two years ago and is now in the process of making the parts for the gear reducer.

Moreno helps set-up the Master Cam machine and cuts the stock and the materials needed for the day.

They are currently researching and doing the development part of the work.

After so many weeks of working on the parts the team starts putting the pieces together. They do have to buy some of the parts they can’t make in the class.

“When we buy parts sometimes they don’t match the design and sometimes they are ok,” Moreno said.

When the parts don’t match the design, Moreno and Lee have to modify some of the parts.

Moreno also assists him with the program when it goes through the machine.

“It’s actually a big load to do. I have to set-up, clean-up and run the parts,” Moreno said.

Lee usually has the parts, the program and the materials ready for us to get to work right away.


Ron Smith is the teacher of Master Cam and designing parts and programming.

“With his physical disabilities, it sure doesn’t stop him from doing the things he wants to do.”

Ron Smith

Smith flies from Utah just to teach the programming classes on Mondays and Wednesdays here at the college.

Smith is proud at the progress the Lee has made in the past two years.

“Lee is a brilliant engineer and is far too advanced for the class on campus that is one reason why he is auditing the class,” Smith said.

The gear reducer will make him capable of doing more things that many wheelchairs will prohibit.

“He has a very talented mind. With his physical disabilities it sure doesn’t stop him from doing the things he wants to do,” Smith said.

This is something he has actually designed on the computer in here and is now making.

“This is something that is really cool and I think it is interesting that he has come up with the idea,” Smith said.


The second reason for him making the gear reducer is to help others too.

“I am not only doing this for me, I am doing this to help others too,” He said.

Lee does have a specific group in mind he wants to help, but he wants to help everyone that is in a wheelchair.

“I want to help the others that are handicap in Korea. Most of them don’t go out of their home because there is a lot of stairs in Korea that they can’t go up,” He said

Many of them just sit at home and can’t do much outside the house. Lee says with this gear reducer he hopes to help the people in his home country to be able to go out and do things normally.

The people in Korea have inspired Lee.

“It’s for them so they can come out of their homes,” Lee said.

Lee is anxious for his project to be done, so he can go to the beach with his family and friends and start helping others enjoy the outdoors too.