BILLINGS — On Wednesday, Billings high school students in the Career Center's engineering classes presented a modified toy car to Trina David, a four-year-old Billings girl with special needs.
“From the day they called us, till today, I was still thinking ‘why Trina?’ Because there’s like 1,000 kids like my daughter out here, and they picked Trina," said Rico David, Trina's father.
Trina's family is originally from Micronesia, a small island nation in the Pacific Ocean south of Japan. They moved to Montana three years ago after relocating to Texas.
Carrie Carpenter, 17, and Maddie Bach, 18, were the lead designers for the toy car project. Their engineering teacher, Mr. Wagner told the students about Go Baby Go.
Go Baby Go supports children with disabilities by helping build toys that let special needs kids play and socialize easier.
“Children's wheelchairs are really expensive and can cost upwards of $30,000 and a lot of insurance doesn’t cover it. So this is a way to get kids moving and developing spatial skills. The idea of moving is to use an electric ride-on car. It’s a lot more cost effective and it can be a lot of fun when you decorate it," Carpenter said.
The students learned about Trina after partnering with Rimrock Elementary, a Billings public school with a program for kids with disabilities.
"We talked to the physical therapist there, she showed us Trina and said that she would be a great candidate for this to do our first car with,” Bach said.
Since Trina isn't able to use her legs well, the students made modifications to the car so she could drive it with ease.
The car has a modified seat belt, remote control to be used by the parents and a working radio.
But the big modification was with the steering wheel and gas pedal. The car has a steering handle that is easier to grip and, that when pushed in, acts as the gas pedal.
“We probably 3D printed four different designs before we got the best one. With a little kid, we wanted it to be durable because you never know what’s going to happen. So, that was kind of our hardest part was making sure it wasn’t going to break," Bach said.
For Trina's family, the gift is life changing.
“Right there, she’s smiling. You guys can hear her screaming. They do amazing work for us and my daughter. They changed my life. They put a smile on my face, but they changed my daughters life," David said.
The students jumped at the opportunity to help a person in their community.
“I think it was a great opportunity to make a positive impact in our community through the skills that we’ve learned through the Career Center," Carpenter said.
Ladies hope the next crop of engineering students build another car.
“We hope that the community can see what we’ve done with this car and maybe we can get more inquiries on other children that may benefit from a car like this that can’t afford a wheelchair. Or maybe help them be happier," Bach said.
And Trina's father is grateful for all the Billings community has given his family.
“That program is amazing. It changed everyone’s heart. My heart and my daughter’s heart. These young ladies and the gentlemen (that helped) they have amazing hearts too. They are really awesome," David said.