Maseratis for Munchkins: M-SET Robotics builds toy cars for toddlers

September 9, 2019 — by Kaasha Minocha

Senior robotics member Suruchi Rastogi was overjoyed at the reaction to the work she and other members of M-SET had done this summer. 

During an unveiling ceremony on Aug. 3 in Burlingame, a toddler receiving a toy car clapped her hands with immense joy when she sat in her new scaled down Maserati and touched the big red button on the steering wheel to start the car. Each car had a license plate with the child’s name and was decorated with stickers based on their personal interests. 

The effort was part of GoBabyGo, a program that provides modified toy cars for toddlers with disabilities to aid with mobility. M-SET reached out to pediatric physical therapist Lauren Saeger, who was looking to start a Northern California chapter of GoBabyGo. 

Saeger posted on a GoBabyGo forum five months ago, and Rastogi responded to her in late June interested in involving M-SET with the chapter. 

Sheeba Garg, one of the club’s lead mentors, explained how members of M-SET met with Saeger, and she posted a GoFundMe page with a goal of $1,000 to buy the kits needed to build the toy cars. The page exceeded the goal by $5.

During the summer, about 10 M-SET members from all grade levels and different levels of experience worked to build the four 3-feet-long rideable toy Maseratis in the club’s on-campus workshop. Each came with a 10-song soundtrack and flashy lights. They also modified the cars to fit each of the four children specifically as each child was a different height. Modifications included frames for the seat, harness adjustments and disabling the doors, so the child wouldn’t be able to exit the vehicle on their own. 

Part of the seat frame also had swim noodles on it as arm rests to cushion against impact, in the child’s favorite color. 

Some of the key M-SET members who worked on putting the cars together and modifying them included senior M-SET president Mitra Mokhlesi, senior electronics lead Sanjana Ravi, junior Riya Jain, who worked on designing the seat frame, senior Brandon Nguyen, sophomore Kaaya Minocha and senior Krisha Minocha. 

Krisha Minocha, who is part of M-SET’s electronics team, described how she found instructional videos to modify the toy cars and was part of the process of hooking up the kill switch onto the car, which is designed to be a safety feature for parents to stop the car’s engine if the child is in an unsafe situation. 

“It felt nice to be able to improve somebody’s life by using skills that I’ve practiced for so many years,” she said. 

The event was held at a non-profit organization called Gatepath in Burlingame, where other pediatric physical therapists and Saeger work with children between the ages of 1 and 2. 

Saeger and therapists said GoBabyGo provides a way for kids to connect with other kids

“I love working with toddlers because I have so much hope for them and see so much potential,” Saeger said. “I also love the fact that children are honest, and you can act silly with them.”

When the four children sat in the cars, they were curious and beaming with joy. 

The children’s parents were also grateful to M-SET for building the cars, with one saying she hopes it will allow her daughter to communicate better with other kids.

Rastogi said it felt rewarding to be able to change someone’s life by applying what she’s learned.

 “I’m so happy for them because the children can keep up with their peers and will feel much more included,” Rastogi said. “This event really opened our eyes, and I believed that it benefited everyone.” 

Rastogi is keenly interested in expanding GoBabyGo further in the Bay Area with goals of holding two events every year. 

“If GoBabyGo expands enough and our club can’t handle it, we might reach out to other robotics teams in the Bay Area region for assistance,” Rastogi said.

Another lead mentor, Anh-Quan Thinh Nguyen said GoBabyGo benefits not only the children, but the club students as well as they feel accomplished after utilizing their skills to benefit others. 

“It’s a skillset M-SET has that we can take advantage of and apply as it is a real-life problem in our community and beyond,” Nguyen said.

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