Go Baby Go: Milligan engineering modifies toy cars to help local children play

Published 2:00 pm Friday, December 8, 2023

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MILLIGAN – Last week, Milligan University’s engineering program embodied their mission to change lives. Last Friday, students in the Introduction to Engineering course, along with the engineering faculty, staff and other engineering students, partnered with AdapToPlay to host Go Baby Go Appalachia. This initiative seeks to help children with limited abilities play more fully.
At the event, Milligan students unveiled seven toy ride-on vehicles they had modified to make the toy cars more accessible for local children. As the children and their families arrived, the engineering students helped the children strap into their new cars and begin driving. Based on each child’s needs, the cars were modified to be driven by joy sticks or buttons instead of steering wheels.
Since the engineering program’s inception, Milligan engineering staff and students have partnered with AdapToPlay to create ride-on vehicles that can accommodate a child’s specific needs, ensuring all children can play.
“Adapting toy vehicles is a very difficult, challenging and technically demanding mechatronics project,” says Dr. Greg Harrell, director of the engineering program. “Through this process, students get a heavy dose of engineering problem solving as they learn how to read engineering drawings, follow a technical guide to build a machine, and use tools and calculations to figure out tasks like replacing a steering wheel with a joystick.”
Harrell notes that this project also instills in first-year students the core mission of Milligan’s engineering program – to use engineering skills, knowledge and their abilities to make the world a better place and to approach their work through Christian servant-leadership.
For first-year student Samuel Funderburk of Limestone, Tennessee, observing the Go Baby Go event as a prospective student convinced him that Milligan was the perfect choice for college.
“I realized that Milligan was exactly what I was looking for,” he shared. “The professors are focused on helping their students not only learn the material in the course but how to be an engineer that can use that knowledge to help others.”
While Funderburk and his peers agreed that the project was difficult, adapting toy cars taught them how to apply engineering theories to real issues. Not only did he learn valuable engineering principles, but he and his peers also had to deal with executing them. Funderburk noted that making sure the wires fit back under the toy hood after they had made adjustments was almost as challenging as disconnecting the original controls to replace it with a joystick and microcontroller.
“What also became clear throughout the process of adapting these toy jeeps was how doable something like this is,” said Funderburk. “Sure, it’s hard at times, but all that work is worth it when you see something you’ve built helping a child. While I love engineering and would build things just for the fun of it, it is encouraging to see that the money, time and work that I am putting into becoming a better engineer will enable me to help others in a very real way.”
For the engineering faculty, Funderburk’s realization is one of the most critical lessons of their introduction course to engineering.
“Whenever a child is strapped into the toy car that has taken so much effort and time for our students to make and then the child chases everyone around the parking lot as they drive, that is when our students understand that their efforts make a real impact,” says Harrell.
For more information on Milligan’s engineering program, visit milligan.edu/engineering.

Contributed Photo
Milligan students unveiled seven toy ride-on vehicles they had modified to make the toy cars more accessible for local children.

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