Nueva middle school students learn by caring in Christine Braun's robotics class. In December 2017, Chris, the shop manager & I-Lab engineer, met with the Los Angeles chapter of GoBabyGo! — a University of Delaware-based program dedicated to mobilizing young children with cerebral palsy. Cerebral palsy is a congenital disorder of movement, muscle tone, and posture affecting more than 200,000 children each year, and there is no known cure. Chris brought her inspiration to Nueva and recently led a team of middle school students in the design, construction, and delivery of the school’s first car to a GoBabyGo! family.
GoBabyGo! is a program started by neuroscientist and physical therapist Cole Galloway as a solution for mobility-challenged toddlers. The program modifies Power Wheels cars into small motorized vehicles for children ages three and under.
According to the GoBabyGo! website, there are limited cost-efficient mobility options for physically challenged children under the age of three. Many children with physical disabilities run the risk of delayed mobile independence. In some cases, a child may not have the opportunity to develop the necessary upper-body strength required to operate a conventional wheelchair. GoBabyGo! specializes in developing tools that are customized to suit the needs of each individual child. Their cars allow for mobile independence at an early age and the finished product usually costs about $200 to build.
The key accessory to a GoBabyGo! Power Wheels car is the "Big Red Button.” This button powers the car forward, but also teaches the user to practice using the muscles he or she will eventually need to power a traditional wheelchair. The young drivers learn to raise their arms and press the Big Red Button, propelling the vehicle forward. A built-in harness provides additional support for early muscle development.
Olivia, a two-year-old with cerebral palsy, was the recipient of the Nueva students’ first build — a Lightning McQueen Power Wheels car. The toy was gutted of its original parts and outfitted with PVC struts, a harness, and Big Red Button.
“Olivia only needed her parent to show her how the button worked once and she was off!” Chris said. Olivia’s visit to Nueva gave the students a newfound sense of commitment. “When Olivia arrived and got in the car, students really felt excited about the project."
On Friday, January 19, the robotics class held a bake sale to raise money for building more GoBabyGo! cars. They raised $558 — enough to nearly cover the costs of three more cars.
Chris' class is currently working on a new car for a child named James, and she hopes to work alongside our students in designing unique customizations on future builds.
Julia Barzizza, Digital Content Specialist
January 31, 2018