East Engineering Students Gift Custom Toy Cars

East Students Gift Custom Toy Cars, Learn Engineering is Emotional
Posted on 05/16/2018
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collage of photos of east engineering students gifting custom toy cars to toddlersThe smiles and squeals of joy filling the halls at Cincinnati Children’s Perlman Center on April 27 was all the payback Lakota East sophomore Maddie Barone needed for the countless hours - both during and after class - that she invested in a year-long engineering project.

“When you think about engineering, you don’t necessarily think about impacting people’s lives for the better,” Maddie said. “But this project showed me that engineering really is important and really can help people.”

Maddie and her classmates designed and built specially modified power wheel cars to fit the unique needs of three local toddlers facing mobility challenges. The project was part of a national program called “Go Baby Go,” which Butler Tech teachers Ken Kinch and Ed Matlack have been facilitating in their engineering classes the last couple years.

The modified cars give children with mobility disabilities a chance to play independently and socialize with their peers more easily. Research has shown that independent mobility is linked to cognitive, social, motor, language and other developmental benefits in young children. Having active control over one’s own exploration is where the largest developmental gains are seen.

Vercina Warren’s three-year-old son, Brian, suffers from a form of cerebral palsy and was one of the recipients. While Brian waits to be ready for his first wheelchair and walker, the car is far more than a toy. A modified Range Rover with padding, a modified acceleration system triggered by touching the steering wheel, and even a remote his mom can use to control it, it’s a much safer alternative to a traditional toy car. (It also came complete with under lighting, a built-in auxiliary jack to listen to music and decorative decals of his favorite Sesame Street character, Elmo.)

“I know that when I put him in there, I can breathe a little easier,” Warren said. “This just came out of nowhere and it’s been a complete blessing. We’re going to have a good summer.”

Sophomore Jordan Boudinet reflected on his emotions after presenting his group’s car to their child, Sawyer. “At the beginning, we were just building a car and we had paperwork about who Sawyer was but we didn’t really know him,” he said. “Seeing the finished product and Sawyer’s reaction really brought it all together.”

In addition to the three cars, one group of students also presented one of Perlman’s employees with a speaker system designed specifically for her wheelchair. When she jokingly mentioned the wish list item during the students’ first visit, several rose to the challenge. A separate group of East seniors adapted a bicycle to meet the needs of another Perlman patient.

“Giving our students an outlet for applying both their talents and their thoughtfulness is the ultimate classroom experience,” said Lakota East Principal Suzanna Davis. “I am so proud of our teaching partners at Butler Tech and our students for rallying behind this special project.”