UNF students rip apart toys, rebuild them to help disabled children

Toys that are broken down and forgotten are being rebuilt for a special group of kids

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Toy cars are being broken down and rebuilt for a special group of kids.

Action News' Romney Smith takes you inside one local classroom for an engineering lesson that's changing lives.

Kids just want to have fun and now with the help of UNF engineering and physical therapy students, kids with disabilities will have access to an adapted toy car.

UNF students brainstorm, sketch and drill to recreate toy cars. Each one is customized for a child with a disability ranging from cerebral palsy to paralysis of one or more limbs.
Students like Ryan Campiz use pool noodles for structural support and alter the mechanics to better fit the child. 

"The car had a steering wheel, like I said, she can't really move that much except her right arm like that," said Campiz.

Specific measurements like height, weight, even seat-to-neck ratio are needed to ensure the car is a perfect fit.

Professor Mary Lundy said merging the physical therapy and engineering students allows them to come up with different solutions for the same goal -- getting these kids moving.

"Our children with disabilities, they usually have to wait until someone takes them and moves them and places them. So this gives them that independence to be away from their parents," said Lundy.

Senior Matt Furlong's team also designed a smartphone app so parents can also control the toy cars.

"They're heading toward a busy street and you want them to stop, you can just hit the kill switch and it'll power down the vehicle," said Furlong.

Students tell Action News not only are they helping kids who experience life in a different way, this class project will translate into real world experience.

"Being able to take that into interviews and into applications and being able to say we actually created this and not just designed it on a paper is really helpful for me in the future," said Furlong.

Once the adapted toy cars are complete and approved by the university, they'll be able to go home with the child they were specifically built for. UNF has a goal to make this an ongoing project in order to help more families with special needs children.

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