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Jefferson High School student modifies remote control cars for disabled kids

Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 5:23 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Elijah Phillips is part of the Iowa BIG program and developed an idea - build controllers so kids with limited motor skills could enjoy playing with remote control cars.

But Phillips said that it wasn’t just for a grade.

“Like, when I’m doing it, like, I don’t do it for the grade. Obviously, I do it for the kids because, you know, when you think about it, the kids outweigh the grade,” Phillips said.

Phillips, a senior at Cedar Rapids Jefferson High School, turned his idea into reality with the Health Technology Fabrication Lab Generate at UnityPoint Health.

“I really didn’t think I had a good imagination, but with Iowa big you know I just realized I have a huge imagination I can brainstorm a lot of ideas obviously it got me this far,” Phillips said.

Phillips buys a regular RC car. He uses a computer to design a new controller with bigger buttons and joysticks and prints it out on a 3D printer. Then, he puts in the wiring from the original RC car.

Overall, he’ll make five of the special controllers to give away at Christmas.

“Kids with fine motor disabilities can’t really use their fingers but they can definitely control their fists and their whole forearm. So then what we’ve done, we’ve picked out buttons so that they can use their fists. So if they go like this and slap it on, boom, they can do like that, and that, or that,” Phillips said.

“It’s really great knowing that we can provide experience for students, hands-on experiences and skills that they can carry forward and the reward they get to have by giving a kid who otherwise couldn’t play with a remote control car that experiences it’s very rewarding,” Rose Hedges, the makernurse champion, said

Phillips got familiar with working on real cars with his dad who was a mechanic in Mexico City. Now he hopes these skills can become his career and more.

“So after I graduate I want to be a welder, but then later in life I love mechanics, I love to work on cars so I’d really love to do something with that,” Phillips said.

He’s passing on that love of cars to kids who might otherwise not experience it.

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