UNF students retrofit toys for disabled children

Adaptive Toy Project expanding this year to help high school students


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – University of North Florida engineering and physical therapy students are working together for the fourth year to retrofit ride-on, battery-powered toy cars for children with physical and developmental disabilities in Northeast Florida. 

The Adaptive Toy Project is expanding this year to help high school students for the first time. In addition to the usual toy cars for younger children with disabilities, the students are specifically working with high-schoolers from Atlantic Coast High School.

Through UNF’s Adaptive Toy Project, a child is referred by a physical therapist to the program and assigned to a group of four students. The group of students is a combination of electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and physical therapy majors. For a final grade, the students build toys that give children mobility.

One of the projects the students are making is a “smart cane” for a student who recently went blind due to his diabetes. The smart cane will help train him to use an actual cane in his day-to-day life.
Students are also building a sensory wall that will be installed at the high school that will be used by students with autism. The wall will help them calm down and focus, so they can be successful in the classroom.

For the first time, students will build a Segway-ish-type device for one of the younger kids. The boy will use the device while sitting down but has to use his body, like a Segway, to move around. 

This year the students are building toys for some of the sickest children since the program started. Some of the kids require oxygen, so the students have had to adapt some of the toy cars to carry oxygen tanks. 

The UNF student teams will be presenting their toy cars and other items to the recipients and their families on campus at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The students will be showing the kids and the families how to use their new toy cars and other items, and the kids will get to try their cars out for the first time.

The program just got a grant for over $500,000 from the National Institutes of Health to help fund the course for a five-year period.