Santa Margarita High robotics students use their skills to retrofit mini car for young driver
Two-year-old Santiago Gomez has a tricked-out, new ride courtesy of Santa Margarita Catholic High School’s robotic team and the Go Baby Go program.
The robotic team presented Santiago, who has cerebral palsy and is unable to sit up on his own, with the retrofitted electric mini car, which has been outfitted with Velcro straps to keep him upright behind the wheel.
Wednesday afternoon, when Santiago arrived at the Rancho Santa Margarita school with his parents, Hector Gomez and Silvia Bautista, and his older brother, Hector, Jr., 4, a row of students from the robotics teams awaited them – stepping aside to reveal the blue car with white racing strips.
Hector, Jr., jumped into the driver’s seat as Santiago’s physical therapist and the robotics team members helped strap the 2-year-old into the passenger’s seat. After a quick Velcro modification to give Santiago more support, his brother hit the accelerator and the boys cruised around campus to the cheers of the students.
The students had also wired a second accelerator button that will let Santiago control the car and an emergency kill switch that can turn off the car if needed.
Go Baby Go is a national program that modifies the mini cars to fit the needs of children with mobility limitations. The Santa Margarita High students will be retrofitting more cars this year in partnership with the program.
Santiago, his family and the car were also the special guests during a school rally in the the gymnasium. With the Beatles song, “Drive My Car,” blaring in the background, young Hector drove the car into the gym as more than 1,700 students cheered.
“It feels great,” said Eric Friestedt, 17, a member of the robotics team said. “Finally seeing these life skills being put to use for good and benefit of others makes it all worth it in the end.”