High Schoolers Use Robotics to Build Car for Child with Spina Bifida

Two-year-old Jeremiah Nelson, born with a condition called spina bifida, has very limited mobility. However, a Michigan high school’s robotics team has decided to help the toddler get moving. Forgoing the competitions that most robotics teams focus on, these students are building cars for children in need.

This effort was a part of the school district’s program called “Go Baby Go!” The high schoolers worked with mentors and electricians to make custom, motorized cars for young children with disabilities that hinder their ability to walk or move about.

Spina bifida, which literally means “cleft spine,” is the incomplete closure of the backbone and membranes surrounding the spinal cord. It occurs when the neural tube, a layer of cells that develops into the brain and spinal cord, does not close completely during the first month of embryonic development. While surgeons can repair the spinal opening after birth, the nerve damage is permanent. This results in varying degrees of paralysis in the lower limbs. To learn more about spina bifida and its various forms, click here.

The team worked to build the perfect motorized car that would fit Jeremiah’s specific needs. Since there aren’t exactly manuals for this kind of work, the students put in a lot of extra attention toward the car’s specialized design. But despite the extra hours of work, the students agree that the reward was worth it.

“It’s fantastic in its own right, because you know you’re helping somebody else that wouldn’t be able to help themselves in that situation,” –Matthew Cary, a student who worked on the car’s design

Now, Jeremiah has his own Lightning McQueen-inspired car to drive. For a child who, before, could not walk or even crawl, it’s been life changing. His mother, Danielle, says he always gets the biggest smile on his face when he’s in the car. Now, he gets to interact with children his age, and has the freedom to move on his own—both of which are priceless opportunities.


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