May 10, 2017
Bioengineering students Katie Cooper ’17, Brendan Butcher ’17 and Zach Reers ’17 worked with the Jowonio School in Syracuse on their senior capstone design project. The students built a custom toy car that could help special needs students with mobility and social interactions.
Jowonio is an inclusive pre-school and some students have diagnosed medical disabilities.
“We wanted to make a device that was a wheelchair but also a transitional tool [to take a student] from maybe being fully immobile to being able to play with their friends,” said Cooper.
The three students delivered a custom built “Otto-Mobile” to Jowonio and tested it with five year-old Luna. Luna has neurodevelopment delay and requires a wheelchair or adult assistance to access her environment. Luna works with occupational therapist Lisa Neville.
“She is still developing strength, and coordination and control and she needs a little help sometimes to participate in the activities,” said Neville.
The “Otto-Mobile” has joystick control similar to a powered wheelchair. It can also be controlled by an adjustable head array. The engineering students also put an iPad mount on the dashboard. Some children use iPad applications to help with communicating.
“We wanted to have as many kids here at Jowonio be able to use the car without feeling excluded so we made it possible for anybody to sit in the car and start driving,” said Reers.
Luna enthusiastically drove the “Otto-Mobile” as the students demonstrated how it worked.
“To have a toy car that is much lighter weight by design can enhance the social participation, so instead of being taller than her peers in a big bulky machine that is hard to get close to, in this device she can actually take a friend for a ride,” said Neville.
“It was great to see her move on her own and go where she wanted to go and have a new source of independence,” said Cooper.
“What I liked about this, we are making on a physical device and you could instantly see the impact it was making and that’s why I wanted to get into engineering,” said Butcher.