Mars Cars

mars_carIn 2016, as a community service outreach project, Rockford Robotics is building a “Mars Car.”  These cars are kid-sized motorized vehicles adapted for use by children with cognitive or mobility issues. Each car is customized for the child who will use it.

The Mars Car project was initiated by FRC Team 4143, Mars/Wars of Metamora Township High School. In 2012 they adapted a Barbie Cruisin Tunes Jeep for a three year old girl whose condition left her without strength to turn a steering wheel. Since then they have provided customized child size vehicles for two more children and are encouraging other teams to build Mars Cars for children in their local area.

Rockford Robotics was learned about Mars Cars at a regional competition and was enthused to adapt a car. Through contacts with the local school district, we were introduced  — via video recordings — to Caleb, a student who would benefit from using a Mars Car. The student can stand and walk but requires help because he is prone to falling. He uses a touch board to communicate. His therapists suggested that the Mars Car will initially be used as a reward.

A neighbor happily donated child size yellow six-wheeled dump truck. First project was to replace the battery to get it moving again. Then we removed the dump box and seat, cut some of the plastic, and made a frame with a bench and safety harness to hold Caleb so he could sit over the rear wheels. We figured he could simply step in, sit down and get strapped in.

When complete, the car will be remote controlled, It will have buttons and levers can be made to turn on lights or make noise, similar to those on his touch board.

Many thanks to John Johnson, Mars Wars Mentor, for providing project guidance, and to the students and mentors building our first Mars Car.