Media Advisory: UA Engineering Students to Give Adapted Toy Car to Child at RISE on April 14

  • April 12th, 2017
Mechanical engineering students at The University of Alabama have adapted a toy ride-on car for a child at UA’s RISE Center. The group includes, from left, Joshua Yarbrough, Rebecca Dietz and Joseph Kabalin. Tyler Gester, not pictured, is also on the team.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – A group of engineering students at The University of Alabama modified a battery-powered ride-on car hoping to provide some freedom for a preschool student born with an abnormality that limits mobility.

The UA students will present the adapted car to the child at the RISE Center at 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 14. Interested members of the media can gather at the main entrance to the RISE Center at 600 Johnny Stallings Drive by 1:20 p.m.

The RISE Center, a part of the UA College of Human Environmental Sciences, serves children with disabilities and their typically developing peers, from ages 8 weeks to 5 years. The children are divided by age among six classes, each with 16 students, one teacher and three assistants. The integrated preschool program benefits families in the community and serves as a practicum and internship site for students from UA and other colleges.

This is a senior-design project for four engineering students. Teachers at RISE approached the team with the idea of adapting a toy car for Justin, who was born with femur-fibula-ulna syndrome, which causes abnormalities of the thigh, calf and forearm bones. For Justin, the syndrome means shortened arms and legs.

The students bought a ride-on car from a toy store last fall and began to modify it for Justin.

The modifications include:

  • A control panel with a joystick and buttons that replaces the original drive mechanisms such as the steering wheel and pedal. The panel rests closer to where Justin will sit in the vehicle.
  • A second motor to give the car more power to travel over soft terrain such as on a playground or wet grass.
  • More power through replacing the standard battery with two larger batteries, increasing battery life from roughly 15-20 minutes to possibly more than an hour, depending on use.
  • An internal computer with wireless internet, which provides the ability to control the car through a custom-built website so his parents or teachers can operate the vehicle on a smartphone.

Group members include:

  • Rebecca Dietz, a senior in mechanical engineering from Waleska, Georgia.
  • Tyler Gester, a senior in computer science and mechanical engineering from Birmingham.
  • Joseph Kabalin, a senior in mechanical engineering from Loveland, Ohio.
  • Joshua Yarbrough, a senior in mechanical engineering from Huntsville.

The group is advised by Dr. Keith Williams, associate professor of mechanical engineering.


Adam Jones, UA Media Relations, 205/348-4328,

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.