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A Level Playing Field: Lab Adapts Toys For Disabled Children


University of North Florida students work to customize a toy car so it can be used by a girl with cerebral palsy.

The University of North Florida's Adaptive Toy Project mixes engineering and physical therapy students in a lab with the goal of converting toys from store shelves into custom-made fun for disabled children.

Credit: Jason Dearen/AP

A University of North Florida (UNF) program is now in its third year of adapting toys from store shelves for disabled kids.

The Adaptive Toy Project brings engineering and physical therapy students together in a lab with the goal of customizing toys so children with limitations can use and play with them.

UNF professor Mary Lundy says students meet with families, and go to therapy appointments and schools. "Engineering students teach the physical therapy students how to modify basic electronics...and in the process engineers learn how to do people-centered designs, and how to look at their clients differently," she says.

Students recently worked on a toy car for Scarlett Wilgis, a four-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, replacing the steering with a large push button, and adding light sensors underneath to enable it to follow a line of tape along the floor whenever the girl hits the button. Scarlett's parents can now design routes for the car with tape or use a remote-control mode for family walks. The customized car costs more than $1,000, but the family gets it for free.

The project has received a five-year grant from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

From Associated Press
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