Engineering Students Bring Jeep Life to a Boy in NeedEveryone deserves the chance to live the Jeep life. No matter who you are, where you are from, whatever walk of life, it is a goal of many, young and old. Thanks to some engineering students at Milligan College, one youngster can experience the joy of actually living the life, rather than just being a bystander. The young boy, at four years old, has spina bifida. It is a congenital disability that affects the spinal cord, from when it did not form correctly. Layton Middleton, from Kingsport, Tennessee, is limited in what he can do and spends most of his time in a wheelchair. He does not have the strength in his arms and legs to always do what the other children do. However, now with the help of some innovative engineering students, he can drive his Power Wheels Jeep himself. However, this is not just any Power Wheels Jeep. It has been upgraded, Milligan College style. Now instead of just a steering wheel, it sports an arcade style joystick that can turn the Jeep with minimum effort. The joystick also controls the rear wheels, as well as forward and reverse movements.
A unique design with the Jeep is a front caster wheel that allows the Jeep to steer easier, and go whichever direction Layton wants to go. Of course, safety is important, so they have installed a new harness to keep him safe and secure while driving. The upgrade to Layton’s Jeep is a partnership called "GoBabyGo Appalachia," a collaboration between Milligan College’s Engineering classes and local occupational therapy groups, such as the East Tennessee State University Physical Therapy and others. The team's goal and the challenge are to help children with disabilities become more mobile. Layton’s Jeep is just the first of future projects the Team and engineering classes hope to accomplish. The GoBabyGo idea was first launched at the University of Delaware. While the students get to work out designs and solutions to actual problems, the real reward comes after they have finished their job, and Layton get’s in his new vehicle. Once in place, like any Jeeper, he was ready to grab the joystick and hit the trails. The smile on his face riding around is priceless, and all at once, it is clear - he has become a full-fledged member of the Jeep Life Family. See ya on the trails, Layton!