Engineering students check with one of the children on how the adjustments to their small toy car are.
Engineering and kinesiology students made multiple rounds of modifications to small powered vehicles to help provide mobility for children. Photo Credit: 14K Media


Engineering mobility

The candy apple red BMW, bubblegum pink roadster and baby blue convertible were rewired, modified and ready for the first test drive by the knee-high drivers by early afternoon at the Go Baby Go event on March 11. Colorado Mesa engineering and kinesiology students worked with Colorado Canyons Hospital & Medical Center (CCHMC) therapists to modify six powered vehicles for six children with limited mobility.

“Kids with physical disabilities are often left behind by their friends since they do not have the ability move by themselves,” said Michelle Raymond, CCHMC speech language pathologist. “We’re excited to bridge the gap between them and their friends by giving them a fun way to be mobile. We’re hoping that when other kids look at these kids that they won’t see a kid with a disability, but a kid with a really cool car.”

Last year was the inaugural year for this event locally. An engineering student who is married to a speech therapist at the pediatric rehab clinic approached the CMU engineering faculty about how students could get involved.

"We learned a lot from last year," said Sarah Lanci, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. "This year we had students commit earlier, join a team and attend at least two work sessions before the event."

There were three to five engineering students per team, three kinesiology students and six therapists who floated between the teams. There were about 60 people in attendance between the volunteers, children and their families. CMU physics students also joined for part of the day and performed experiments for the children and their siblings.

Engineering students worked on the wiring and steering wheel adjustments prior to the event.

“I can’t even estimate how many hours went into these cars,” Lanci said.

Along with completely rewiring and coding the cars, the day of the event students designed specialized seats and support, installed steering behind the car for parents and connected a kill switch.

“Engineering students get to use their technical building skills; kinesiology students get to use their knowledge of the human body,” said Josie Carlson, senior mechanical engineering student and vice president of the Society of Women Engineers. “We work together as a team to modify and specialize toy cars for young children who currently don’t have the opportunity to be like other kids their age.”

Throughout the event, which lasted from 9am-5pm, the children were in and out of the cars at least four times to test the modifications. Each time the engineering and kinesiology students would take the small toy car back into the shop to make further adjustments. Lanci said, therapists were impressed with what the engineering students came up with and she was proud of her students for taking charge and problem solving with each other.

Lanci said this will become an annual event and expects it to grow as the engineering department does. She said she hopes they will be able to help even more children in the future.

“Before sending the kids home we had them do one last test drive and at that point it was rather difficult to get the kids out of their car,” Carlson said.

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