Student engineers give girl mobility on pink wheels
Madison’s pink Barbie car may look similar to other toys driven by girls her age, but the two-year-old’s vehicle is far from a toy.
The car, designed by an Advanced Product Design class at Grand Valley State University, is a personal electric vehicle (PEV). Madison, 2, has spina bifida, which left her paralyzed from the waist down, but the car helps her maneuver in style.
Jake Hall, a GVSU senior and student in EGR 401, said different projects were assigned to students at the very beginning of the semester.
“Most of the time several sponsors or personal will present a five-minute presentation in front of the class talking about the product or idea they want design and developed,” Hall said. “From there the student then submits a request for their favorite project to work on and the professors select the students.”
The personal electric vehicle project for Madison was developed through the Cook-DeVos Center for Health Sciences with Lisa Kenyon, who had worked with Madison before. She then spoke to John Farris, who taught EGR 401.
“To design the Personal Electric Vehicle, it took around two weeks of initial design and brainstorming,” Hall said. “My partner Phil DeJonge and I sat down to discuss what type of a base we wanted to build off of and what features and systems would be good to implement into the design that would benefit Madison and also her family.”
Hall said he then worked on contacting people to see if someone was willing to donate the vehicle and other parts.
“We spent another two weeks building up the vehicle and modify the steering column and motor controllers to allow the vehicle to be steered using a joystick or the RC controller,” Hall said. “We then met with the mom and Madison to test out some final things, like the position Madison would be sitting in and anything that would be a hazard to her body. Since she has no feelings in her legs, she could be easily cut and wouldn’t know.”
After about eight weeks, the project was complete. “Working on this project has been an absolute blessing,” Hall said. “God has given everyone gifts and I have the ability to use mine to help design product and devices to help people who are faced with these challenges.”
He said there were also other advantages too. “It has also helped me prepare more for starting my business once I graduate that will be a company that designs products and devices for kids and families
who struggle with these challenges where larger companies will not design them because the market is so small,” Hall said. “Working
on this project has been extremely enjoyable and has taught me to humble myself and serve others following 1 Peter 4: 10-11.”
Hall said he believes this device has and will continue to really help Madison’s parents.
“They now have the ability to watch the girl drive around on her own and be able to play with her siblings safely,” Hall said.
The entire project was donated to the family. Hall valued the cost of the vehicle at about $900.