Putting children with disabilities in the driver’s seat through community collaboration

Missouri S&T Second Saturday Service students built cars at The Community Partnership office.

The Community Partnership received a small grant to launch a new project called Go Baby Go. Go Baby Go adapts toy ride-on cars for children with disabilities enrolled in TCP’s Capable Kids and Families® program. The Community Partnership requested help from Missouri University of Science and Technology to adapt the cars. Dr. Kelly Homan, the faculty advisor for the Pi Tau Sigma Mechanical Engineering Honor Society, and Dr. Ashok Midha, professor of Mechanical Engineering Senior Design, agreed to lend their students and their expertise to the project.  

The Community Partnership staff worked with physical and occupational therapists to identify children in the program who would benefit from a car and the specific modifications each child would need.  Soon the demand for cars outgrew the funds available through the grant, so TCP turned to the community for help.  Hartmann US, Hutchinson Ford, Al West Nissan, and a few generous individuals purchased additional cars, Executive Director of The Community Partnership Jean Darnell said. 

Jessica Haywood, Volunteerism and Greek Life Coordinator, organized a group of Second Saturday Service students to complete the first phase of the project—construction of the basic cars. Homan then arranged for the cars to be moved to the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Lab at Toomey Hall to await modification.Midha’s students began to design appropriate modifications for each child and plans were made to have a fleet of cars ready to be driven in the St. Pat’s Parade.  

Although the parade was cancelled and students left campus due to precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the project did not stop, Darnell said. 

The Mechanical Engineering Senior Design class continued to work together remotely. A virtual presentation of the new designs was provided to the children’s parents and therapists in May. Each design took into account individual children’s interests, size and specific disabilities. Modifications included joystick steering, flexible bumper systems, additional harnesses, padding, and roll bar support and remote control capability for parents. 

Darnell said The Community Partnership hopes to complete the modifications with the help of Missouri S&T students in the fall. Sponsorship opportunities are still available to provide cars to a second group of Capable Kids children.  

The Rolla Daily News