Jackson Fugate helped engineer a toy Jeep to start by pressing a steering wheel button instead of a pedal for children who are bound to wheelchairs to ride.
The 16-year-old was one of about 15 students and five mentors from P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School’s First Robotics Club who drove about two hours to Orlando on Saturday, said Leigh Anne Brewster, the club’s faculty sponsor. They presented altered toys like the Jeep in the first Assistive Technology Industry Association’s Maker Day.
They showed the toys to children with disabilities, like blindness or muscular limitation, and demonstrated how to use them, said Fugate, a sophomore club member.
“Before (Saturday), I didn’t really get the chance to see the way (our work) impacted actual people,” he said.
Brewster said the conference put everything into context by allowing them to meet the people they have impacted through their work.
“They learned that robotics is more than robots,” Brewster said. “It’s about making a larger impact across their state, potentially the nation.”
The conference gave the students the ability to interact with the families and children who receive their altered toys and speak with assistive technology experts from all over the world.
Andrea Wright, a 17-year-old high-school senior, said she helped demonstrate the toys at the conference.
“Seeing the families that were so grateful that people like us were working on things like this was really heartwarming,” she said.