University of Akron engineering students build custom Power Wheels truck for 4-year-old cancer survivor with special needs

GREEN, Ohio -- It is just two weeks until a little boy in Green turns five and Friday he received a gift he and his family will never forget.

Friday night, the family of four-year-old Nathan Ramey gathered with a team of six students from the University of Akron and members of the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board at East Liberty Park for an unveiling.

He received a brand-new Power Wheels truck completely redesigned to meet Nathan’s special needs.

Nathan has Down Syndrome and is in remission from leukemia. Twenty-four months of treatment took a toll on the little boy’s body and now he has trouble getting around. He also has stunted growth and low muscle tone.

His family wanted him to be able to play outside with his brother and experience the same things other children his own age do; and now that is closer to becoming a reality.

A team of biomedical engineering students at the University of Akron heard about this young man's struggles from the Summit County Developmental Disabilities Board and decided to use science and innovation to make his life easier.

The Power Wheels truck was re-designed to meet Nathan's needs. The team did the following:

  • Redesigned the accelerator pedal to be within Nathan’s reach.
  • Modified the seat to be slightly higher up, with stronger seat belts and extra cushioning.
  • Attached a front bumper to help take away most of the impact if Nathan strikes an obstruction.
  • Installed a remote-control kill switch allowing Nathan’s parents to instantly turn off the vehicle’s battery if Nathan is headed in a dangerous direction.

It was finished in January, but as he was just finishing cancer treatment, he couldn't take it outside until now.

“It’s great to have a real five-year-old instead of a sick kid in bed watching Moana over and over again” said Nathan’s mother, Aileen Raney.

A labor of love, that is paid with in the sheer joy it brought to this little boy’s face.

The UA project leader, Christopher Halley,  said it best when summing up the celebration, “Before he was just enjoying it as it was, he's like, oh look at me I'm pretending to drive a car and now it is, look at me I am driving a car. His smile is three times the size it was. It really warms my heart and makes me proud I was able to help with this project."

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