UNF Students outfit small cars and toys for disabled children

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Students at the University of North Florida went through great lengths to allow children with disabilities the opportunity to play like every other kid on the block.

This is the second year Dr. Aceros' engineering students have come together with UNF physical therapy students. They work together in class to outfit the cars and various small toys to the needs of local children who are differently abled.This year nine families benefited.

Some of the cars have joysticks to make them easier to control. Other cars are outfitted to help children who have trouble seeing.

"Some of them have motion sensors so when they get too close to a wall they're slowed down or even stop. Other cars actually follow a line on the floor so they'll draw a line on the floor and the car will have a sensor to detect that line and follow it," Ricardo Gerana, Electrical engineering student said.

"We're using concepts from robotics. Things like joysticks, propulsion controls so that it's easy for kids to use them. So there's a ramp up so no jerking effect in a way that the kids are going to enjoy using these toys," Dr. Juan Aceros, professor of electrical engineering said.

The cars brought big smiles to the children's faces. Anna Hopson, 1 1/2-years-old wasn't quite sold at first shaking her head no when her dad asked if she liked her little Aerial the Mermaid buggy. Her mother knows what a difference it'll make in her daughter's life.

"I think it's awesome. She's going to be able to get around the house. Take her to the park. Take her on walks with our other children. she'll have a much better time and so will we," Kathleen Hopson said.

The families applied through their childrens' physical therapists to see if they qualified. They then met with the physical therapy students to determine what needs their children had for their new cars. Then 11 electrical, 11 mechanical and 11 therapy students worked on the project all semester, just in time for Christmas.