WILMINGTON — Ryder McGriff, almost 3, has battled a brain tumor and epilepsy. The tumor, which was located near his brain stem, required 28 surgeries and has left him with gross motor delays.
“He’s a very slow walker, he takes three steps and stops,” said Cassie McGriff, Ryder’s mom. “He’s a very independent toddler. Anything that he can do to be on his own he loves.”
Wright State University’s STEM Ability Alliance program collaborated with the Clinton County Board of Developmental Disabilities (Board of DD) to build a motorized vehicle to help Ryder get around on his own.
The process is modeled after the Go Baby Go program created by the University of Delaware, in which vehicles are designed to safely empower children with mobility challenges to play and socialize more independently.
Ryan Goecke, a Wright State biomedical engineering student, volunteered to adapt a battery-operated car to fit Ryder’s needs.
“I actually get to use my engineering knowledge and put it into play in a role that will make a difference,” said Goecke.
The car’s foot accelerator was replaced with a paddled button located on the steering wheel along with a seat belt system that can be adjusted as Ryder grows.
The vehicle also has several other safety features including PVC pipe around the cabin for protection and an emergency shut-off switch on the side.
“It will let him get around our backyard and let him go where he wants to go and I don’t have to worry that he’s going to fall a lot,” said Mrs. McGriff.
Clinton County Board of DD Community Integration Coordinator Sarah Needham said, “These cars provide safe, supportive fun for our kids and also have the potential to provide aspects of physical therapy, increased muscle strength, and independent movement.”
She contacted Bill Marine Ford in Wilmington about being the first local sponsor. The initial thought, said Needham, was “who better to be a sponsor of a customized car than a car dealer?”
Bill Marine Ford agreed and donated toward the purchase of the car and the materials needed for modification. In honor of the sponsor, a Power Wheels Ford F150 was purchased.
Needham, who is a Wright State graduate, approached her alma mater about a Go Baby Go type project. The university allowed use of its new facilities in the Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration Building where lab space was provided for design purposes.
“After building the car, we met with Ryder and his family for a final fitting before our presentation,” Needham said.
She added, “We plan to continue developing and expanding this program. In cooperation with Wright State University, we will continue to seek sponsorships, modify cars, and provide more children in our area with tools for independent mobility.”
If someone is interested in sponsoring a car or making donations toward the program, they can contact Needham at [email protected] or at 937-382-7519.
“In our program we take motorized/Power Wheels cars and adapt them for children with mobility-related disabilities. We are able to purchase, modify, and customize our cars for around $300 to $500 depending on the needs of the child,” she said. “The cars are loaned to children under specific guidelines and then returned for future use by another child.”
Wright State’s STEM Ability Alliance program is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
News Journal Staff Writer Gary Huffenberger contributed to this report. Please visit https://webapp2.wright.edu/web1/newsroom/2016/05/16/wright-state-engineers-help-2-year-old-to-go-baby-go/ for a video on this story.