JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Students at University of North Florida are doing things that no other college students are doing. They're part of a one of a kind class that pairs engineering students up with physical therapy students to create toys for children with disabilities. This year, they've expanded and are also helping students at Atlantic Coast High School and they don't plan to stop there.
"It was brought to our attention that children in the community really didn't have affordable access to assistive technology, particularly the really young children, the children who are under the age of five," said physical therapy assistant professor Mary Lundy.
So, they created this course that has engineering and physical therapy students working together. For the past 4 years, they've been adapting toys for children with special needs.
"We have our electrical engineers who know how the electricity works in it, and do all the wiring. We have our mechanical engineers who know how the machine works. And we have our physical therapy students who know how the body works as a machine. So, all of that together makes something that's really amazing," said physical therapy student Stephanie Habryl.
Habryl worked on a vehicle that will go to a boy who's deaf and blind.
Preston Loveday helped fit this cane with an accelerometer. It will go to an Atlantic Coast High School student who has recently gone blind. It has a device on it to track how the student actually uses the cane.
"The way they move it, how fast they move it, trying to make it basically an extension of their arm," said Loveday.
"Hopefully with this cane, he'll be able to train into the culture, and train himself on how to use the cane properly," said electrical engineering assistant professor Juan Aceros.
Aceros says they even made a sensory wall that uses a joystick similar to the control on a motorized wheelchair. They also made a sound board that will have pictures of whatever is making the sound.
"Being involved, doing something that they think is purposeful and meaningful, really makes a big difference in how they leave the course," said Lundy.
"There's so many projects and so many ways that you can help people with engineering projects. It just kind of gives you a goal to work towards and it also is really nice knowing you're making a difference in the world. It might seem simple, but everything leads to something bigger," said Loveday.
The class has received grants for these projects. They're in their second year of a five year grant from the National Institute of Health. They also received another five year grant. That allows the toys to go to the kids free of charge. They hope to work with more than just Atlantic Coast High School in the future to help more kids in the community.