For many of us, toy cars were nothing more than a fun, engaging pastime when we were kids. However, for young children who visited the STAR Health Sciences Complex last week, these cars serve a much larger purpose. Assistive Medical Technologies (AMT), a student organization operating out of the Pediatric Mobility Lab, spent a day altering ride-on cars, and some lives, for the better.

The club invited the community for a ride-on car build for children with mobility disabilities. By the end of the day, each child took a car home with them.

“We’re doing electrical modifications this morning, breaking for lunch and then the kids are going to receive them this afternoon,” explained senior AMT member and biomechanical engineering Bretta Fylstra.

Fylstra spent time altering a Frozen-themed car for four-year-old Ella.

“We’re making a remote-control car so that she can operate it but her parents can steer it. We also have features on certain cars where the car will go if the child stands so that they can begin associating standing with movement.”

AMT dedicates its collective talents to creating cost-effective models of assistive medical devices.

“We’re a very specific program,” said AMT president Erica Comber. “We really try to involve the families as much as possible in this process. The cars are tailored to what they want.”

For two-year old Annalise Hicks, who was born without tibias in her legs, receiving a car means being able to do more of what she loves — interacting with others.

“She’s very active, her condition has never stopped her from trying to keep up with other children,” said her mother Pam Hicks.

Annalise’s main issue is that she is too low to the ground, making play time difficult.

“Right now, she’s transitioning from the group of littlest kids to the toddlers at her preschool. The car will ensure that she gets around in a safer, quicker manner.”

As Pam Hicks explains her daughter’s challenges, AMT members listen intently and ask her opinion on various features of the car. Guardrails on the sides? More cushion on the seat? Her wish is their command. As Annalise gets older, she will most likely use a motorized vehicle, so another benefit of the ride-on car is so that she can get acclimated to being in a chair.

“We’re hoping that this will teach her how to use it responsibly so she’s not bumping into things or people,” her mother said with a laugh.

AMT remains continually motivated to help more and more children through impactful efforts like a community car build.

“You’re able to help so many children through this process. It’s also been extremely helpful to my biomedical engineering major,” said Comber. “I’m able to learn about power tools and building, while changing children’s lives in the process.”

Article by Katie Constantine

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