TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A group of engineering students at The University of Alabama modified a battery-powered ride-on car hoping to provide some freedom for a preschool student born with an abnormality that limits mobility.
The UA students will present the adapted car to the child at the RISE Center at 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 14. Interested members of the media can gather at the main entrance to the RISE Center at 600 Johnny Stallings Drive by 1:20 p.m.
The RISE Center, a part of the UA College of Human Environmental Sciences, serves children with disabilities and their typically developing peers, from ages 8 weeks to 5 years. The children are divided by age among six classes, each with 16 students, one teacher and three assistants. The integrated preschool program benefits families in the community and serves as a practicum and internship site for students from UA and other colleges.
This is a senior-design project for four engineering students. Teachers at RISE approached the team with the idea of adapting a toy car for Justin, who was born with femur-fibula-ulna syndrome, which causes abnormalities of the thigh, calf and forearm bones. For Justin, the syndrome means shortened arms and legs.
The students bought a ride-on car from a toy store last fall and began to modify it for Justin.
The modifications include:
- A control panel with a joystick and buttons that replaces the original drive mechanisms such as the steering wheel and pedal. The panel rests closer to where Justin will sit in the vehicle.
- A second motor to give the car more power to travel over soft terrain such as on a playground or wet grass.
- More power through replacing the standard battery with two larger batteries, increasing battery life from roughly 15-20 minutes to possibly more than an hour, depending on use.
- An internal computer with wireless internet, which provides the ability to control the car through a custom-built website so his parents or teachers can operate the vehicle on a smartphone.
Group members include:
- Rebecca Dietz, a senior in mechanical engineering from Waleska, Georgia.
- Tyler Gester, a senior in computer science and mechanical engineering from Birmingham.
- Joseph Kabalin, a senior in mechanical engineering from Loveland, Ohio.
- Joshua Yarbrough, a senior in mechanical engineering from Huntsville.
The group is advised by Dr. Keith Williams, associate professor of mechanical engineering.
The University of Alabama, the state’s oldest and largest public institution of higher education, is a student-centered research university that draws the best and brightest to an academic community committed to providing a premier undergraduate and graduate education. UA is dedicated to achieving excellence in scholarship, collaboration and intellectual engagement; providing public outreach and service to the state of Alabama and the nation; and nurturing a campus environment that fosters collegiality, respect and inclusivity.