Children’s excitement filled the air as six teams of mechanical engineers, kinesiology students and physical, occupational and speech therapists customized toy cars for children with special needs on Saturday.
This is the second year that Colorado Mesa University’s Society of Women Engineers and the Kinesiology Department has teamed up with Family Health West Pediatric Rehabilitation program for Go Baby Go.
Go Baby Go is program started by University of Delaware in 2006 after Doctor Cole Galloway realized toy cars could be modified for children with mobility difficulties.
By modifying six-volt toy cars for a child with physical disabilities, it empowers these children to play with their peers without needing assistance from their parents.
“Many of the children here are unable to walk or cannot walk long distances,” Anouk Kincaid, a physical therapist at Family Health West, said. “These cars act as a stepping stone towards independence and mobility, helping to socialize children with a really cool mode of transportation.”
Electric toy cars are usually powered by a foot pedal, but for children with leg braces or limited mobility, this can be difficult. With the help of CMU’s mechanical engineers, the toy car’s “gas pedal” is rewired into a large button on the dashboard to start and stop the car.
Some cars ditch the steering wheel and are outfitted with a joystick instead. Each car is customized to fit the child’s needs.
Modifications range from a headboard on the back of a chair to prevent whiplash, PVC pipes and pool noodles to provide extra support for the child’s small frame or even handle bars for parents to help steer their children.
“For some kids, these cars are the first step to power wheelchairs,” Kincaid said. “Once a child is able to properly navigate these cars, in a few years they will be able to move to a power wheelchair with no problem at all.”
Josie Carlson, a senior in the mechanical engineering program and president of the Society of Women Engineers organized the partnership between Family Health West and CMU with assistant professor Sarah Lanci.
“It may seem like a lot of work, but as soon as you see the smiles of the kids you’re helping, it’s all worth it,” Carlson said. “It feels like Christmas.”
The success of Go Baby Go has prompted Family Health West to extend an invitation to the public.
“For the past two years, everyone involved [with Go Baby Go] were pediatric patients at Family Health West. Next year, we are looking to expand the program from six cars to ten,” Director of Rehabilitation Services, Bill Cummins said. “We hope to have five cars for our patients and the other five cars to be outfitted for children in the community.”
The application for Go Baby Go 2018 will be posted to Family Health West’s website this summer. The website is http://fhw.org/contribute/go-baby-go/.