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FCHS engineering students to repurpose Power Wheels for children with disabilities
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Mayor Troy Brumbalow and his son, Zach, unload a Lightning McQueen Power Wheels car at Forsyth Central High School for students to take part in Go Baby Go, a program to adapt the cars for children with mobility issues. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

This week, city of Cumming Mayor Troy Brumbalow and his son, Zach, delivered a Lightning McQueen Power Wheels car to Forsyth Central High School for more than just child’s play.

The car was delivered to the school’s engineering program on Wednesday for students to get an inside understanding of how it operates so they can work to modify it for Go Baby Go, a national program to adapt the battery-powered cars to help children with disabilities and other challenges move around.

“This will be the second high school in the nation to participate in Go Baby Go, as far as we’re aware, and the only one in Georgia,” said Zach Brumbalow, a Central graduate and current biomedical engineering student at Mercer University. “I think this will be the second chapter in Georgia, Mercer being the only one prior to this one.”

Zach Brumbalow said he took part in the program at Mercer this spring and attended an international summit in Florida featuring teams from Belgium, Israel and across the U.S.

“Once I got knee-deep into it, I realized this could be something really huge,” he said. “We live in a community that is far too blessed to not do something. I knew from the day we left this summit that I had to bring this home and wrote … an email on the car ride on the way back to school from the summit.”

The car will go to a recipient from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, who will lead a parade at the Cumming Country Fair & Festival on CHOA night, Wednesday, Oct. 10.

“They will start the parade,” said Laurie Cole, community development office for the hospital. “We always have a patient parade, and we thought this would be a great way to start it this year.”

All items will come from the school and donors, and there will be no cost for parents of the children.

Kelli Schuyler, chair of Central’s science department, said the school was excited to take part as the STEM Academy requires a service aspect.

“We knew we had the kids and equipment to handle a project,” she said. “Now it seems like it might get really, really big.”

Go Baby Go started at the University of Delaware and has since expanded across the country.

“It’s kind of turned into a worldwide phenomenon of engineers putting their heads together to figure out how to make kids’ lives better for them,”  Zach Brumbalow said.

Once a group has a car, some work is done, such as moving charging ports to make it easier on parents, before shaping it for the recipient.

“Say a child has not a lot of strength in their legs and it is difficult for them to stand up; they’ve developed an ATV with pressure plate gas pedal where the kid has to stand up and stay standing up in order to make the car go,” Zach Brumbalow said. “Or if the kid has problems holding their head up, you put the gas pedal behind their head so they have to push back to make the car go.”

Senior Casey Forman, president of Central’s Technology Students Association, said he believes the project will benefit the local community, along with the school community.

“I feel like it is a great opportunity for everyone in the engineering program and everyone at the school,” he said. “This school is a great community within itself. It’s like family, so I feel like if we all do this project, it’s going to increase friendships among us all. Then we also get to give back to the community which I think is really, really neat.”

Classmate Laura Lally, also a senior, said she was also excited about the project, which she said would match with one of her other programs.

“Along with completing the engineering program, I’ve also done the marketing program,” she said. “So, I’m excited to use what I’ve learned and the whole engineering program has learned for the years we’ve been in it to do a project that means something. I think that’s real exciting.”

Troy Brumbalow said the public-private partnership will require some donations to continue. Those interested in sending checks, which should be designated for Go Baby Go, can mail them to 131 Almon C. Hill Drive. Online payment is also being considered.

 “The school doesn’t have the money to fund this, so we’ve been going around and starting to ask people,” Troy Brumbalow said. “The response has been overwhelming. It takes $300, is what we’ve estimated, for one car, to buy the car and everything they need to adapt it.”

The mayor likened the cars to racecars as they will feature a logo from the donor and some printings of the recipients’ interests.

School officials said they would like to continue the program going forward.

“Once we run through it a couple of times and have the older students train the younger students, doing it once or twice a year would be a great thing to pull off,” said teacher Dusty Skorich.

Zach Brumbalow said while there is a lot of excitement for the school, students and community, none of that compared to the impact on the recipients.

“The look on the kid’s face, I wish I could express how much that sealed the deal,” he said. “When you see these kids get the opportunity to do something the way other kids do, it is absolutely incredible.”