This year’s GoBabyGo! program kicked off at Edgewood Middle School Thursday to help five toddlers be more independent.
Over the last few years, Edgewood Middle School students taking part in GoBabyGo! have been modifying 12-volt vehicles for toddlers that have developmental disabilities. Each car is represented by a group of students with engineers from the community. Students are collaborating with the engineers, redesigning and rebuilding the 12-volt Jeeps.
Five Jeeps are being modified this year, which EMS Project Lead the Way teacher Abbi Richcreek said she believes is the fourth year for the GoBabyGo! program.
Three of the toddlers are from Kosciusko County and the other two are from Fulton and Marshall counties. Richcreek said the toddlers are referred to the program.
“We go through Warsaw Community Schools Special Services. And then when we don’t have all the candidates from there, we are talking with Joe’s Kids here in Warsaw,” she said.
EMS students will work on modifying the vehicles with mentors from Dalton, DePuy, Zimmer Biomet and Paragon Medical.
Richcreek said the five teams try to modify the Jeeps in five sessions of two hours each.
“We do this every Thursday with the exception, obviously, of spring break, and there’s another exception of a week. And we continue to build and modify these. And the third session, which is March 24, which is in one month, we have a try it night where the kids come and try to see how their design is working with their toddler,” she said.
The design might have to be reiterated at that point.
During the modification process, the teams take into consideration what issues there are with the toddler, whether it be a mobility issue or something similar, and modify the Jeep to that.
“The goal is to be independent,” Richcreek said. She noted the goal is for the toddlers to be able to operate the Jeep themselves, so modifying the Jeep might include things like putting the dash in the steering wheel.
The first step of the design process is to know what the design challenge or design statement is. That was what Thursday’s kickoff event was for, so the team could find out what the mobility issues are and ask what the parent would like to see in the design.
Richcreek said they are planning on showing off the Jeeps at First Friday May 6.
Several of the parents, mentors and students talked about their hopes for the program.
Chelsea Bridgman said she hopes daughter Charlotte Timmons gets an adventure out of the program. Bridgman said she thinks the program is pretty cool so far and didn’t realize it existed. She hopes the modified Jeep will give her the courage to do some things Timmons is still a little scared to do. “This will be great for her,” Bridgman said.
Leslie Cox said she hopes daughter Taylor gets a little bit more freedom. They live on a farm and the Jeep would allow Taylor to drive around on.
EMS student Lilliana Rak said she wanted to be part of the GoBabyGo! program because she wanted to understand more about engineering and be able to help the toddlers involved to do something they wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.
Mentor Tiffany Temple from Paragon Medical said working in the program is a “really neat opportunity.” It’s a great opportunity to help the next generation of middle-schoolers get experience with engineering and to do it in a fun way. Students can learn not only is there a lot you can do from a technical side, but actually enjoyable to do. Then they can pour back into the community with “all the little kids who get to benefit from it as they modify their cars specifically to their needs.”
This is Temple’s second time mentoring with the program. Co-worker Kyra Edmonson, who is also a mentor on the Paragon Medical team, told Temple about the program, but EMS reached out to engineers in local companies to see if they would be interested in mentoring and it was something that sounded like she’d be interested in.
She hopes the toddlers can get the Jeeps modified to their needs so they can have the same fun and joy anyone else could get to have.