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GCCC engineering students create adaptive toy solutions


XENIA — Students in Greene County Career Center’s advanced engineering systems program have been working to make modern toys more adaptive for children with limited mobility or alternative dexterity needs.

The process includes selecting a toy and disassembling it see how it operates and to see if it could be redesigned to enhance usability for individuals with limitations or disabilities. Students have learned that each toy operates using different electronic mechanisms and they must determine what might assist individuals with mobility or motion difficulties to more effectively operate the electronic devices. Some may include a switch, a push button, keyboard, or any complex action, all with the common goal to make it more accessible for the user. The students are also expected design and create the boxes to house the accommodations.

“This project is a prime example of the high quality, but meaningful real-world problems our students at the career center resolve on a daily basis, said Greene County Career Center School Board President Steve McQueen.

Like most lab instructors at the career center, Doug Picard frequently introduces problem solving challenges that empower creativity, but meaningful solutions among his students.

“It’s very human-centered,” he said. “A lot of the projects we make are things we just do because they help address a real need, making it more meaningful for the students to learn. We’re doing this for the good of somebody else.”

The students are challenged to modify the toy by bypassing the specific electronic input and putting it on a switch bypass, which essentially converts it to a button or other activation device that will now perform the designated function.

The toys used in this project were purchased with the help of a grant from Ohio STEM Learning Network Classroom Grant Program funded by Battelle.

“Battelle is proud to invest in the hundreds of educators who submitted ideas to expand STEM learning for their students. Together, we can inspire a new generation to solve the most pressing challenges of the future,” said Wes Hall, vice president of philanthropy and education.

Having funds to help with the cost of brand-new toys helped the students maintain the respective packaging and donate the modified toys to local agencies with the idea that it is still practically brand new in the package.

As a part of the assignment and grant requirements, the students have to complete a portfolio where they document each step of their design process and can share their solutions with others.

“That’s the challenging part for them; they just want to get in there and do it,” Picard said. “I have to slow them down so they can highlight their accomplishments.”

Students who completed the conversion project will have the opportunity to present their completed toys for various competitions and showcases in the Miami Valley. The completed toys will be donated to Shriners Children’s hospital.

“I am so proud of these GCCC students for their dedication to find solutions that help and serve those around them and to Mr. Picard for always challenging GCCC students to problem solve and achieve creative solutions that impact our community,” Superintendent David Deskins said.

More than 30 toys have been disassembled and reassembled by GCCC engineering students.