WICHITA, Kan. — More than 10 high school students from the Wichita area have been retrofitting toy ride-on cars for children with disabilities including spina bifida, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and dystonia.

The students were divided into four pit crews that rewired, reprogrammed and adjusted the cars in partnership with Wichita State University physical therapy and engineering students. The cars are a part of the school’s GoBabyGo! Project, the Wichita Eagle reported (http://bit.ly/2sGpFEs ).

“We hack the car — we change the electronics inside — and we custom fit it for each child,” said Samantha Corcoran, engineering instructor and a coordinator for the program.

Maddi Riemann, 2, was one of three toddlers moving around in her own modified ride-on toy car.

Maddi has spina bifida, a birth defect that inhibits mobility after the spinal cord fails to develop properly.

“We want her to be just like other kids as much as possible, and really right now the only thing holding her back is being able to walk,” said Katie Riemann, Maddi’s mother. “This allows her to explore and see what other kids are seeing.”

Students rewired Maddi’s car to include a switch that allows her to drive while sitting or standing. When sitting, all she has to do is push a button to drive. When standing, her seat acts as a brake — sitting will make the car stop and standing will make it go. She also has a safety harness installed.

“They want to give her practice standing up,” Corcoran said. “This car should help her practice and build up those leg muscles and coordination to do that.”

Each car cost approximately $300 and was funded through various donors and sponsors.

Mark Behrends, 15, said rewiring the car was exciting but not as much as seeing Maddi drive the car.

“It was precious and completely unheard of to see Maddi drive the car we redesigned,” he said. “When we saw her face light up, start smiling and get used to the car — that was just something else.”


Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com