Kyle Robertson, a first grader at Bogan Elementary School, had trouble getting around on the playground because of cerebral palsy, but he is a lot more mobile now, thanks to the efforts of a Talawanda Middle School geometry class.
The 11 students in the class retrofitted an electric kiddie car with new wiring, paint, special controls and a safety harness, and now Kyle can go for a spin whenever he wants.
“He gets to go out with other kids riding bikes and it’s very rewarding. We are very thankful for this opportunity,” said his mother, Pamela Ollish.
The project was the idea of Ryan Barter, a STEM instructor at the middle school. It was inspired by the Go Baby Go foundation, which helps children with mobility issues. Work on the car was incorporated into the eighth graders’ class curriculum, Barter said.
“A couple years ago I found out about the program. Go Baby Go was originally started by a professor at the University of Delaware. The program’s idea is that everybody has the right to move, so he found a way to operate tike mobiles for kids to give them mobility,” Barter said.
Barter wanted to launch this project to teach students about life lessons outside of geometry.
“It’s a geometry class, and my main focus was not necessarily to expand upon geometry. I wanted them to have them think about someone besides themselves, that there are other people out there and how they can help,” said Barter.
Kyle’s condition limits his muscles and the coordination needed for mobility.
Although the middle school class and Bogan Elementary are both in the same school district, Kyle’s mother and Barter’s class were put in touch with each other through Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. Kyle was at the Perelman Center at CCHM, receiving speech and mobility therapy. Workers at the hospital had heard about Barter’s desire to work on a Go Baby Go type project.
The geometry class worked with Matthew Elliot at Children’s, to focus on the specific needs of Kyle.
“He needed a different seatbelt, head support, kill switch on the outside so a parent can kill the switch, and a handle or rope for a parent to walk behind the vehicle,” Barter said.
Within the project, some students learned to do wiring, others worked on altering the seat, and some incorporated their artistic skills with the license plate.
“Whatever skills they had, they contributed to it,” Barter said.
“The car was ordered on Amazon and we modified it with supplies from local hardware stores and Talawanda Middle School,” said Barter.
The class also gained experience in other skills, such as developing a presentation on the project for the school board, which is to be delivered on May 20, and writing grant proposals for funding Barter said.
“We all wrote grants, and learned how to price when it came to ordering parts. We are working on what an effective presentation looks like to the school board. We want to paint the picture of our story, how to make it informative yet concise, and hit the main points of what we’ve learned,” Barter said.
From the money obtained from the grants, the class bought and rebuilt the car for just under $500.
“Our class received two grants. The Oxford Community Foundation provided funding to visit the Perlman Center at Children’s Hospital to see a Go Baby Go vehicle and learn about ways that occupational therapists work with young children with mobility issues. To purchase the car and other supplies, the class wrote and was awarded a grant from the Butler Rural Community Connection,” said Barter.
The purpose of the Go-Cart is completely up to the family and student with disabilities.
“It is for however the family wants to use it, but the primary use is to use it at home. It will be great that he can now go out into the yard and play with his siblings and ride around,” Barter said.
The school is considering the idea of having a generic cart at the school, to make it easier for other students with mobility issues to get around to their classes, he said.
Kyle’s mother expressed the importance of using real life experiences to educate children and teenagers about people who have “differences.”
“Anytime as a parent you can educate the community on differences, it goes back to that teachable moment, to educate and explain to teens that it’s okay to be a little bit different,” said Ollish.
Barter thinks the students gained valuable life-lessons from this project.
“It’s great to have children experience a real-world problem, explore it and figure out ways to solve it. But really I just wanted my students to learn something from it,” he said.