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High school and college STEM students build electric cars for kids with disabilities for free

Disabled children receive free electric carts

A group of high school and college students from Connecticut have come together to build something extraordinary: Fully-functioning electric carts for families who may not be able to afford adaptive wheelchairs. STEM students from New Britain High School and technology education students from Central Connecticut State University built the carts from scratch together.

They are part of the local "Go Baby Go" chapter, an organization that helps kids with disabilities receive access to independent mobility. The organization was started at the University of Delaware and now has chapters across the U.S.

"What this is designed to do is maybe for an hour every day let the kid take control of their own mobility," Connor Boman, a Central Connecticut State University student who volunteered during the build, told CBS News.

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STEM students from New Britain High School team up with technology education students from Central Connecticut State to build the electric cars. CBS News

Go Baby Go volunteers learn how to build custom electrics carts that are shaped like cars. Local kids in need are then gifted the carts for free. Each build is usually funded entirely by donations.

Go Baby Go cart recipients are often chosen by their physical and occupational therapists. Last week, the Go Baby Go chapter in Connecticut finished building custom carts for 7-year-old Kelicia and 8-year-old Mosiah, who visit the same therapist in the area.

The day the students completed the carts, Kelicia and Mosiah's families went New Britain High School to test them out for the first time.

When each child got into their brand new cart, their faces lit up — it's the single moment the builders look forward to the most.

"[Mosiah's] face was smiles the entire time," Central Connecticut State student Connor Spencer said. "It's a priceless reaction to see the parent and child reacting to, 'I'm moving. I'm doing this by myself. No one is pushing me.' That reaction is priceless to see."

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Mosiah's therapists chose him as a Go Baby Go recipient. He went on a test drive of his new car at New Britain High School. CBS News

Mosiah was in disbelief at first that he was driving, but he got the hang of it very quickly. He made driving the red jeep look so enjoyable, his older brother wanted to try it out. The students who built the cart let him have a turn, even though the cart was custom-built for Mosiah, who is unable to walk on his own.

It took a few tries for the other cart recipient, Kelicia, to get used to the driving, but once she did, she couldn't stop — and her mom, Kechisa Mathis, couldn't stop crying.

As she ran alongside her daughter, someone ran up to Mathis with a big box of tissues. Onlookers laughed as Mathis grabbed a tissue and through her tears kept on cheering for Kelicia.

"They said she wouldn't do it," Mathis said later on, giving a huge hug to Kelicia's occupational therapist. "They said she wouldn't do it. And y'all made that possible. Thank you!" Mathis later told CBS News that her daughter was born with Trisomy 18 and her doctors said she wouldn't live past a few months.

The condition, also know as Edwards' syndrome, causes severe developmental delays due to an extra chromosome 18. So, it was an emotional victory for Mathis to see her daughter, now 7, "driving" down the school hallway.

The STEM students took turns helping Kelicia steer her new cart, and then her mom gave it a go. The experience was so overwhelming, Mathis had to take a break to catch her breath through the tears of joy. "My baby's driving!" she exclaimed.

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Kelicia's mom couldn't hold back tears as she ran alongside her daughter, who was driving her brand-new electric car – something she never dreamed was possible. CBS News

"She's going to have a field day in this car!" Mathis said after Kelicia went on a long test-drive.

The Go Baby Go program in New Britain ensures the STEM students aren't just learning how to build robots, but robots with a purpose. Heavyhn Kimber, an 11th-grader who participated in the build, said creating the electric cart with her classmates helped further her engineering knowledge.

"I like being hands-on and being able to use the drills and everything," Kimber said. "And being able to see the parent. When I saw [Kelicia's] mom tear up, it almost made me tear up. It's just beautiful to see how happy she is to see her daughter in the car."

They may look like cool, red electric cars but they're much more than that — they give kids with disabilities a way to move around independently with a huge smile on their face.

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