Wood County students design vehicles for special needs children

Photo by Michael Erb Caperton Center for Applied Technology students Logan Bailey, left, and Cullen Gates, right, work on modifying a battery-power, rideable toy car to work as a therapeutic vehicle for a child with special needs. The project is part of the Go Baby Go! program, and the finished cars will be unveiled during a program Monday at the Caperton Center.

PARKERSBURG — Wood County Schools technical students will reveal three children’s therapy vehicles built from motorized toy cars Monday at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.

The cars are part of the Go Baby Go! program which redesigns battery-powered, ride-on cars for children with special needs. Each vehicle is customized to meet the needs of a specific child, and is given at no cost to the family.

Last year, students designed and built two vehicles, and this year the program has expanded to three, said Steve Freshour, mathematics instructor at the Caperton Center for Applied Technology.

“My sister, Kristen Kimes, is a physical therapist and asked me to assist her in building a car for some of her patients,” Freshour said. “We created a project-based learning opportunity for the students at the Wood County Technical Center which includes students at the Caperton Center for Applied Technology.”

Freshour said the students involved in this year’s project are from the Therapeutic Services, Electrical Technology and Project Lead the Way: Pre-Engineering programs. The students hail from high schools throughout the county.

Photo by Michael Erb Joseph Madrid, left, and Thinh Tran, right, both seniors at Parkersburg South High School, work on an accelerator button for a battery-power, rideable toy car which is being modified as a therapeutic vehicle for a child with special needs as part of the Caperton Center’s Go Baby Go! program.

Freshour said the students also work with therapists from the Pediatric Therapy Department at Marietta Memorial Hospital, where his sister works, who help the students determine how to best suit the needs of each individual child.

“This project allows an opportunity for our students to do something for others,” Freshour said. “The little children gain a therapy tool that is fun and modified for their needs.”

Cullen Gates, 18, a senior from Williamstown High School, said students have been working on the vehicles for about three weeks, modifying the cars and designing, printing and installing 3D-printed parts.

“The car is designed specifically for this child so he can use the car for everyday tasks,” Gates said. The car has a button which makes it move, switches and buttons to practice motor skills, and an audio recording device which creates sounds or delivers spoken messages when the child moves his hand across a sensor disk.

“It’s more therapy than mobility,” Gates said.

Photo by Michael Erb Students at the Caperton Center are designing and customizing battery-powered, ride-on cars for children with special needs. The finished vehicles will be unveiled at an event Monday evening at the center.

Last year, Freshour said, a child was able to use his car and the audio recording to say “Trick or Treat” at houses throughout his neighborhood.

Gates said the back of the car has an installed bar which allows a parent to help move and steer the vehicle and a kill switch on the back if the parent needs to stop the device.

Logan Bailey, 17, a senior at Parkersburg High School, said the project has been rewarding.

“It won’t just be fun for him, it will help him grow,” he said. “I’m excited to have him see the car and to get moving.”

Freshour said last year the program was supported through a grant from First Energy, and vehicles were donated by Toys R Us. This year, the program received a grant through the McDonough Foundation.

Photo by Michael Erb Last year, 4-year-old Gage Handschumaker was one of two children to receive vehicles through the Go Baby Go! program and the Caperton Center for Applied Technology.

A reception to reveal and present the three new vehicles will be held from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Monday in the auditorium of the Caperton Center at West Virginia University at Parkersburg.