Go Baby Go! Mercer students to build toy cars for kids with limited mobility

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group of smiling college students surrounding young child and a toy car
Go Baby Go event February 2023. Photo by Christopher Ian Smith

MACON – Mercer University students will modify battery-powered toy cars for children with limited mobility when the University’s Engineering Honors Program and Tift College of Education host their latest Go Baby Go build on Oct. 27 and 28.

Go Baby Go is a national, community-based research, design and outreach program that began in 2012 at the University of Delaware. Integrating assistive technology, families, clinicians and industry partners, the program helps provide children with disabilities the opportunity for movement, mobility and socialization.

This year, Mercer celebrates a new corporate sponsor for the event, Hutchinson Auto Group, that made a major gift commitment to support the program over the next four years. Mercer graduates Forest and Michael Hutchinson say they are excited and honored to be supporting this program.

“I personally have a special needs son,” said Michael Hutchinson, managing partner of the Hutchinson Auto Group and a 2000 graduate of Mercer’s Stetson-Hatcher School of Business. “As a parent, you want your child to achieve and have everything. And when you have a child who might be limited, it’s great to have a program like this to involve them in something they didn’t think was possible.”

Michael added that beyond the two-day event, the efforts of the Go Baby Go program open the eyes of the engineering and education students to a world they haven’t experienced before. “These are literally life-changing lessons for them that they’re going to take with them for the rest of their lives,” he said.

Forest Hutchinson, a 1999 graduate of Mercer Law School and managing partner of the Hutchinson Auto Group, said he and his family attended the Go Baby Go build last year and were impressed with the interactions he saw between the families, students and faculty. “These people have a lot of heart and are making a big impact with these kids,” he said. “We thought the Go Baby Go program was a really good tie-in to what we felt a calling for, helping kids, plus it’s our alma mater.”

For the upcoming build, Mercer’s freshman and senior engineering honors students will make and modify cars to fit the specific needs of children in 19 families. The University’s previous nine build events from 2016-2023 provided mobility solutions to more than 130 children.

“Go Baby Go provides Mercer’s education students the ability to participate in the builds by helping with childcare, meeting the families, seeing children and families up close and personal and interacting with them,” said Dr. Sybil Keesbury Martin, associate professor in the College of Education.

She added that students are building relationships with the children and families just for the few hours that they’re on campus, allowing students to put into practice all the things that they’re learning in their classes about children, family and child development. “The Go Baby Go project allows us to truly impact children and families in the community and throughout the entire state of Georgia by providing access to vehicles that are modified for their specific needs.” she said.

Dr. Philip McCreanor, professor and chair of environmental and civil engineering and program director for the Engineering Honors Program, said the build events have become a highlight of the program.

“From an academic perspective, these events introduce and reinforce basic electronics concepts through hands-on activities and promote the service-focused nature of not only the School of Engineering but also the larger Mercer University community,” he said, adding how grateful they are for the support from the Hutchinson Automotive Group. “It has enabled us to increase the number of vehicles provided at the 10th blitz build by 25% over previous events, expand our fleet of vehicles to accommodate more children and offer vehicles to families with children that have more complex vehicle requirements.”

In addition to students in the School of Engineering and College of Education, Mercer student-athletes volunteer at the event to provide support to fellow students and faculty as well as the children and families receiving services.

Go Baby Go!
Mercer University Intramural Court #3 in the University Center

Friday, Oct. 27
4-7 p.m.

Saturday, Oct. 28
10:30 a.m.-5 p.m.