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Engineering Project Changes Lives

Haley Turner, 4, gets ready for a test ride in her remote control car.
6/5/2006 —

I AM LOVED. . .  that's what the mini Pennsylvania license plate reads on Haley Turner's motorized car that four engineering students at Penn State York delivered to her Mountville home last week.  Turner, who suffers from cerebral palsy and loves to be outside, can now travel outside in her "kiddie car" that was modified by students as part of an engineering class.

Seuang Xapakdy of Dover, Tom Brungard of West Manchester Township, Sean Wagner of York and Kayle Wherley of Lower Windsor Township, worked on the car as part of their requirements for their senior-level engineering course. The vehicle is radio-controlled, and the controls are engineered so that Haley's grandmother, Sandy Turner, whom she lives with, can operate them.

Sandy Turner contacted Penn State York after she saw a broadcast on the news last year about how students in an engineering class built a radio-controlled cart so a paraplegic man could work in his garden.   She thought that making a radio-controlled car for her granddaughter would be a great project.  Haley suffered a stroke at birth and doctors didn't expect her to live more than a day or two.  She has proven the odds wrong and her family wanted to find a way to let her have fun and be outdoors.  Since Haley can't walk or hold a steering wheel, the vehicle needed to be remote controlled.
Students work on car
The project became a reality thanks to Charles "Chuck" Gaston's EMET 440 class.   Each year Gaston, assistant professor of engineering at York, asks senior level electro-mechanical engineering technology students to team up and select a project to do as part of the course.   Presented with a list of possible projects, the four young men chose this one because it was something that was going to be used day after day and would help a child.  The students converted the battery-powered, scaled-down version of a Cadillac Escalade into a large, radio-controlled car.

To make the car work for Haley and her family, they had to design the electronic controls for the main drive motors, add another motor and a system to control the steering. If another child is driving the car, a parent can use the remote control to override the child. They also adapted a car seat that can safely hold Haley in the vehicle.   Just so her sister doesn't feel left out, the car seat can be removed and replaced with the toy seat that came with the car.

In addition to car shopping with the family for the vehicle, many hours of work on the car, troubleshooting problems, and figuring out glitches in the electronics, the students got to know the Turner family and became attached to Haley as well.

Holly Stoltzfus, Haley's mother, couldn't be happier and sums up her feelings about the students best,  "Everything these guys did is just incredible."

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