A second-grader needed mobility at school. So these Butler County students built him a small Jeep.

Kyle Robertson received his car in May and adjusted to it while his mother, Pamela Ollish, was being shown how to use the emergency stop switch by members of the geometry class which built it for him. CONTRIBUTED
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Kyle Robertson received his car in May and adjusted to it while his mother, Pamela Ollish, was being shown how to use the emergency stop switch by members of the geometry class which built it for him. CONTRIBUTED

Geometry is largely about problem solving and an eighth-grade class last school year did a lot of it, building a car for a Bogan Elementary student to move around.

Thanks to the work and ingenuity of the class, Kyle Robertson entered the second grade this month with a modified small Jeep-model car. While most kids his age would consider it a toy, he uses it to navigate a world most maneuver on foot.

A year ago, district STEM Instructional Leader Ryan Barter was preparing to fill in a teaching slot at Talawanda Middle School in order to offer a geometry class to eighth graders. As an instructional leader, he does not usually teach classes but assists teachers in presenting STEM courses—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math—but a teacher was needed and he jumped in, happy to return to the classroom, if on a limited basis.

He had heard of the Go Baby Go cars provided through the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and wanted to teach a class that could provide hands-on, student-led learning as well as be a community service effort to also teach the students to give back to those in the community.

He visited Cincinnati Children’s Hospital where he met with Occupational Therapist Matthew Elliott, who oversees work on the cars for patients.

“I offered to help,” Barter said, seeing an opportunity to have his class work on a car to donate to Children’s Hospital. “He said, ‘A child in your district could use a car like this.’ It was a student at Bogan.”

Once the school year started, he presented the idea to his geometry class and they were behind the plan.

He wrote a grant request for the Oxford Community Foundation to pay for a class bus trip to Children’s Hospital to meet with Elliott and see the cars in action. After that, the students took over.

“It was a problem-based learning project. The class came up with the action steps, who was going to build it and how to build it. I tried to stay as far back as possible, even in the board presentation, I did only one slide, they did the rest,” Barter said.

That work included writing a successful grant to the Butler Rural Electric Cooperative’s Community Connection for money to purchase the car. Fortunately, that proved to be enough money to buy two of the cars.

“We did not start building until the second semester. Kyle came in and chose a Mercury and chose green, but it was too small and so we had to get a white Jeep,” Amritesh Bali explained.

That was discovered before the Mercury came out of the box and the class donated it to a group in Cincinnati and ordered the Jeep, Barter said. He added the cost was held down because Kyle is a bit older than most of the youngsters who get these cars and some of the safety devices were not needed.

While time was spent on preparation for building the car in the first semester, the actual work came in the second semester.

“The first week of class, we made a plan of action, what we wanted to do and what could go wrong to plan it,” Eliot Berberich said. “Then, we got caught up in the school part of school.”

He said part of that preparation was watching a one-minute video to get an idea what the car would actually look like.

Ben Zazycki added they did research on people’s adaptations to deal with similar issues.

“We used other resources on the internet talking about people with different needs than what Kyle had, but it gave us ideas on adapting to what Kyle needed,” he said. “It helped us realize it is possible, not just a plan. Before, it was, ‘We think we can do this.’ Now, we could see it was a definite possibility.”

Delivery of the second car brought chaos as the class members ripped open the box and spread parts all over the room without any organization. Barter admitted that made him cringe a bit, but it was part of letting the class do the work and learn from their actions.

The teacher said his daughter has a toy car similar to the one they were about to put together and she allowed him to take it to school.

“She said we could take it apart if we put it back together,” he said. “We had two screws left.”

Wiring proved to be the biggest obstacle. The cars are operated with a foot pedal, but that was not going to work for this one, so the wiring had to be modified to operate through a button on the steering wheel. Since Kyle is slightly larger than most of the kids who get these cars, they needed to operate it on a 12-volt battery, rather than six-volt and the more powerful battery made it more difficult and threatened to “fry the button” as Eliot Berberich said.

Barter brought in a consultant for the wiring, Dustin Mundey, a friend who works in the Hamilton School District. Mundey came in to talk to the middle school class about the wiring issues and helped them figure a way around the problems.

The wiring is located under the car’s seat, and area about 1’X2’ and routing the current became an issue when they moved the control from the floor to the steering wheel, Amritesh Bali said.

There were other issues to overcome, as well.

Yusuf Ozdemir explained a couple other concerns.

“The seatbelt was not safe. We had to move it so it went across his chest, not his waist. The seat was too low. We used a swim float board nailed into the seat,” he said, adding, “Compared to others at Children’s, ours was a lot less modified.”

Barter will be teaching the geometry class again this year and expects to repeat the class project of building a Go Baby Go car because once word got out about what they did this past year, other children who could use one came to his attention. He proclaimed the project a success.

“I wanted it to be student-led. They stepped up,” he said.

The students were in agreement.

“One thing that stuck with me is when we gave away the car, we did not put that many hours in, compared to class work. It was like the school year was two separate school years to me. It was not just a traditional class,” Ben Zazycki said.

“It was a really good way to wrap up the school year,” Eliot Berberich added of giving the car to Kyle.

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