South Alabama Students Turn Toy Vehicle Into Learning Tool For Children With Disabilities

| February 13, 2018 @ 5:00 am

By Bob LowryUniversity of South Alabama

It started out as a senior project, and it ended up helping change lives.

Every fall semester, senior engineering students at the University of South Alabama receive a list of group projects to consider for their Senior Design Capstone Project. “Students by this time have learned theory and ‘how-to,’” said Dr. David Nelson, professor and chair of mechanical engineering. “Now, they have to design it. In doing so, they can make a difference in someone’s life. It’s a great teaching tool.”

For the 2016-2017 academic year, one of the chosen projects was undertaken with input from Hargrove Engineers and Constructors in Mobile. A Hargrove employee had learned of a handicapped child who needed a powered wheelchair and, through the Hargrove Adaptive Toy – or HAT – Project, contacted USA. The HAT Project, which was launched in 2016, takes off-the-shelf toy vehicles and modifies them for children with disabilities to practice with as they prepare to possibly use a powered wheelchair.“There are a number of children with disabilities who could benefit from a powered wheelchair, but a client must show they have the dexterity to operate it,” Nelson said. “Kids who’ve never used one are unlikely to pass the test to get one, so we wanted to provide a platform for them to practice.”

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