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Robotics team modifies toy cars for special needs children

Working with Go Baby Go, the Robotics team creates opportunities for children with special needs

Samantha Volkamer, JAG copy editor and organizations editor

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To give children with special needs a toy that works for them, the robotics team worked with Variety KC, to benefit their Go Baby Go program, to modify toy cars on Saturday, Nov. 17. The team created the cars for the kids they were sponsoring, Jeremiah and Micah.

After a positive experience last year, robotics sponsor Pamela Sheehan decided have the team undertake the project again this year.

“Two years ago we found out about this. This year we went to a meeting for FIRST Robotics and they said they were doing it again this year, only they were doing the Hackathon, which is when you got the car ahead of time,” Sheehan said. “[Co-robotics sponsor Gary Hannah] and I were both super interested in that part of it because we have a little more time to do something a little bit more difficult and we knew that the kids would love it.”

According to sophomore Courtney Mahugu, the team modified the toy cars to fit the specific needs for the children.

“With Micah, since he can’t see that much, we have sensors on the back and the front of the car that give off different frequencies, different sounds, so that way he knows when he’s getting too close to something in front of him or too close to something behind him,” Mahugu said. “For Jeremiah, because he’s really young and he can’t move his hands very well, we gave him a button so all he has to do is press the button to go forward and back.”

Being that she is a paraeducator at that school, Sheehan believes the children should have the same opportunities as everyone else.

“Personally I have a little special soft spot in my heart for special needs kids because I’m a para,” Sheehan said. “I love working with special needs and I love being able to include them in everyday life. Everything that we do, I think they should be included just as much as we are.”

After creating the cars, Mahugu felt relieved to see that they were working successfully when the children were experiencing them for the first time.

“[I was] nervous at first because the parents were all so excited. I was like, if the car doesn’t work than we are in really big trouble and they are all going to be really sad,” Mahugu said. “But after they tried it out and they were having fun with it. I felt really happy. It was so cute.”

Giving the children the car and seeing the families’ reaction to the cars was an emotional experience for Sheehan.

“[I was] extremely excited. It’s like Christmas to see their faces,” Sheehan said. “The biggest part for me is the parents, because I can see the parents crying and the grandparents crying because they are so excited that their kiddo gets to be like every other kiddo so that’s the part that I love.”

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