SOUTHINGTON — Students from Southington High School and Central Connecticut State University made the final fittings Friday on battery-powered cars for two special needs children.
With the push of a button on the steering wheel, the children were able to accelerate the Power Wheels car while parents steered from behind, thanks to modifications made by the engineering students.
Friday was the second of two days of work modifying the cars as part of Go Baby Go, a nationwide program run by colleges and universities. It’s the first year the program has taken place at Southington High School, according to Nancy Chiero, a retired special education teacher and member of the school’s technology advisory board.
Michelle Dischino, a technology and engineering education professor at CCSU, joined the board this year and suggested the program.
Two children, 4-year old Henry and 3-year old Logan, received cars on Friday that were fitted with special seats, extra padding, an extra power switch in the back and ropes attached to the steering wheel to allow parents to direct the car from behind. Rather than pedal accelerators, students rewired the car and put a button on the steering wheel to power it.
“They did a good job knowing Henry’s needs and his likes,” said Sarah Curylo, Henry’s mother. She heard about the program from Henry’s teacher and therapist.
“I’m very impressed with the outcome,” she said. “Henry likes it.”
Henry took his car, decorated with Thomas the Tank Engine stickers, for a test drive Friday morning outside the auto shop at the high school after the final modifications.
Dischino said the work gives tech education students at Central the chance to lead high school students. Students had started last week, but Friday they were able to adjust pads and straps for the children who would receive the cars.
“Usually we have to make a few more adjustments,” Dischino said.
Jared Fernandez, a CCSU sophomore, and Dylan Levesque, a CCSU freshman, are Southington High School alumni and worked on the cars. They’re studying technical education and said they help the high school students do the work rather than doing it for them.
Money for the cars and equipment comes from student fundraising, grants and any other sources the group can find, Dischino said. They’ve formed a non-profit organization to accept donations and keep the cars free for families.
For the past three years, Go Baby Go has provided cars in conjunction with Plainville High School. Dischino, a local resident, hopes to return to Southington High School next year to run the program again.