JACKSONVILLE, Fla. For three years, a UNF class has been changing the lives of young children with disabilities on the First Coast. The students are giving these kids a chance to be normal and move and play like young children should.
Brittany Garwood and Marino Kosorcic have been working all semester on an electrical toy car. It's for a 4 year old boy with cerebral palsy and cortical visual impairment.
"He sees almost like Swiss cheese. There are holes missing in his vision so he can't see 100% straight," said Garwood.
The students are part of a one of a kind class at UNF. Electrical engineering students are paired up with mechanical engineering and physical therapy students.
"They're talking with people outside of their field and they have to learn to use technical language in a way that somebody else could understand it," said assistant professor of electrical engineering Juan Aceros.
He says these skills will help the students beyond graduation.
"We all have different mindsets coming in to this one problem and we all interact with each other," said Kosorcic.
"As engineers we're known to be cold and calculated. I mostly think about the way the car moves, and how he's going to be sitting, and that type of thing. And the physical therapy student actually brings forward this kid has this condition, this is what we need to start concentrating on. This is how the car is going to be unique, This is what he needs to be able to progress and move forward just like any other kid," said Jaylyn Brown.
She is also in the class. She's working on a car that will be used more outside. So, the modifications include castors in the front and more rugged wheels. In Brittany and Marino's car, they had to have a way to steer the vehicle because the child doesn't have grip strength to control the wheel.
"The little sensors are on the bottom, those little black pieces. So, if we have it set here, it will detect how far away from this black line this moves," said Garwood.
That will steer the car. The parents will put a track around their house, and those sensors -- that can tell the difference between white and black -- will go in the front of the car. The students say this class gives them real world application not available at any other school.
"When you're in the classes, it's all math and science and you don't ever really think about what you're going to do with it. When you get in something like this, it really makes you realize that you can make a difference," said Garwood.
Several other schools are now trying to start programs like this at their schools. At UNF it's funded by a 5 year grant, which means the cars are free for the families.
The child's physical therapist recommends the child through UNF's adaptive toy project website.