It was a simple idea: Help a child who has trouble walking to move around. An easy idea, but not necessarily an easy thing to accomplish.
“Go Baby Go,” a project completed in an engineering class by SCH Academy seniors, was born out of the ride-on car program of the same name at the University of Delaware. It consists of taking a Power Wheels toy and modifying it for use by a student with an extreme disability. The SCH students worked on their project with United Cerebral Palsy of Philadelphia, who identified a four-year-old who needed the ability to get around.
“It’s a mechanically challenging job to modify an existing object in a fashion that maintains its functionality while modifying the way we control it,” said SCH Engineering Department Chair Peter Randall. “The project also had the advantage of incorporating the use of microprocessors and control systems, which the students are learning about in class.”
The students ran into all of the usual challenges of a real-world project, mainly trying to figure out who is good at what—the mechanics, the electronics, and the programming. That process takes some sorting-out time.
“The most enjoyable part so far was when we went to UCP to meet the kids, because they really enjoyed the car and they got in and they kind of drove around in it and they were having a lot of fun with it,” said SCH senior Kali Godshall. “And the hardest part was the programming. It’s a challenge because you have to teach yourself.”
Because they were not accustomed to running into these types of obstacles, the mistakes the students made and learning to deal with those mistakes became part of the lesson. They came to find that some ideas don’t work and learned how to change their ideas so that they worked with the specific client and the specific hardware. These kinds of problems and lessons are what make it a much more real-world experience.
The students and teachers enjoyed the project because of this exposure to issues in real life. “When our teacher, Mr. Martin, mentioned ‘Go Baby Go’ for a project, I went on my computer and found out it was a [University of Delaware] project that allows kids with disabilities to operate Power Wheels,” said SCH senior Payden Howard. “I thought, wow, that’s really great, and because I’m attracted to things that help others, I thought it would be really awesome if I could do something like that my senior year.”
Because the University of Delaware does not have the resources to build cars for all the children in need, the university encourages schools and organizations to start their own Go Baby Go program.