VIDEO & STORY -- Delaware State Chamber of Commerce recognizes "Go Baby Go" project which adapts mini-cars for children with disabilities

Giving young children with disabilities a way to move is giving Smyrna Middle School students statewide recognition.

The Delaware State Chamber of Commerce and its affiliate, The Partnership, Inc., announced Thursday that they are honoring the school’s “Go Baby Go” project as one of five recipients of the 2018 Superstars in Education award winners. A reception and awards ceremony will be held May 14 at Wilmington University’s Doberstein Auditorium.

In the Go Baby Go project, the school has partnered with the University of Delaware to help young children who have mobility problems. Middle school students in STEM classes (science, technology, engineering and math) are designing and modifying battery-operated mini-cars with adaptable gears, programming, switches and safety supports tailored for children to help increase their mobility.

Smyrna Middle School Principal Steven Gott commended the students and STEM teachers Denise Boyles and Brian Hurd for organizing the Go Baby Go project at the school to give students “opportunities to experience real-life applications in the field of science and technology.”

“The award is a great opportunity to recognize the hard work by the staff and school embracing our STEM program, and, at the same time, build a connection with the community in offering support for some of our children in need,” Gott said.

Hurd said he was excited to hear about the school winning the award, and he credited the students.

“During the Superstars in Education Committee’s visit to our school, our students presented what they learned so well,” said Hurd. “I was impressed by their responses to the committee's questions. I am so glad the students’ hard work and dedication to this project is being recognized and rewarded.”

He said the students have so many talents, and it’s great for them to get to use these talents on a meaningful project – something that’s not entirely about academics, but also about life lessons.

“This project fosters activities that encourage compassion, leadership, perseverance, teamwork and opportunities to build relationships within our community,” he said.

Boyles said the students and teachers are honored to receive recognition from the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce.

“Winning this award is motivating,” she said. “The students are excited to reach more families that could benefit from an adapted mobility car. I am very proud of the students. They showcased this project with expertise and confidence. Their attention to detail, safety, design and creativity shined during the Superstars committee visit.”

What students are saying

Student Julia Kreck said working on the Go Baby Go project has been important in several ways.

“I love to see the joy in the kids and the excitement in the kids eyes when they try our modified cars,” Kreck said. “Knowing that we are making a difference in the kids’ lives and our community gives me pride. Winning this award gives our Go Baby Go project more recognition and helps us to get more supplies to make more modified cars for children with disabilities. I am proud to be a part of this project and make a difference in my community.”

Student Elise Sampson said, “For me, winning this award means that I am being recognized for something I love. Of course, it is an honor but truly I am doing this from my heart. I don't seek recognition or validation for I know that I am changing lives.”

History of the ‘Go Baby Go’ program

In 2012, Go Baby Go was established during a research project created by Dr. Cole Gallaway, through the University of Delaware Mobility Lab. Gallaway modified small, ride-on cars from toy stores into mobility devices for children with disabilities.

“Mobility gives you an opportunity to learn from your environment thus creating important neurological connections for brain and behavioral development,” said Boyles. “According to Dr. Galloway's research, from six months of age, children have the ability to move toward items that capture their interest; however, a child with a mobility challenge may have greater difficulty moving towards items of interest, which affect brain and behavioral development.”

Galloway’s research found that no pediatric power wheelchairs are available for children under 2 years old. The Go Baby Go program creates mobility devices out of toy cars for these children.

Boyles said students modify the mini-cars by wiring in a switch, electrical relay and a speed controller.

“The switch and electrical relay create a new way to make the car move,” Boyles said. “The switch increases the accessibility of the car. The speed controller allows parents to control the speed of the car. Additional modifications are also made in order to make the car exciting, comfortable, and safe for a child, for example, themed stickers, LED lights, seat belts, body and head supports.”

During this school year, about 180 STEM students will complete a curriculum similar to the gears and switches that are used to modify mobility cars. So far, the students have designed and modified four off-the-shelf mini-cars with adaptable gears, programming, switches and safety supports.

Attention from a national leader

While the Smyrna Middle School program will be honored at the Superstars in Education ceremony in May, the students and teachers have already received recognition from a U.S. Senator.

Sen. Tom Carper visited the school in February to learn more about the Go Baby Go program and the STEM classes.

“The Go Baby Go program at Smyrna Middle School teaches STEM skills using hands-on learning,” said Carper. “It’s inspiring to see teachers engaging students in new and creative ways, like they are in Smyrna.”

Boyles said Carper talked to the students about the impact they are having on families that often need it most.

“He enjoyed talking to the students about how they are learning, and that he also learned best by doing,” said Boyles. “Senator Carper admired the students’ hard work and spoke highly of their efforts within the community.”

Smyrna School District Superintendent Patrick Williams thanked the students, teachers and administrators “for their commitment to our community, to our families and to one another.”

“We are all so pleased, primarily for what it means to our students and teachers who are working in a partnership with the University of Delaware to create this wonderful opportunity for our families,” Williams said. “When a school project reaches beyond the walls of the classroom into the community, bringing a greater good into existence, education has reached its pinnacle.”

“This is proof that classrooms in the Smyrna School District are full of amazing teachers and students who want to work with our businesses in order to give back to our community,” Williams said. “From the donated battery-operated cars and jeeps donated by families to free parts and supplies from businesses, we are incredibly fortunate and thankful.”

This is the second year in a row a Smyrna School District program has received one of the awards. In 2017, Clayton Intermediate School was honored for its recycling program, “War on Waste,” a student-led project which helps save the school district money on trash collection costs while also helping to save the environment.

Would your child benefit from a Go Baby Go car?

For more information on the Go Baby Go program that helps young children with limited mobility, see the website http://sms.smyrna.k12.de.us/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=341154&type=d

The site has an application that can be completed when someone knows of a child in need, and also features information about opportunities to volunteer and ways to donate to the program.