BILLINGS — Calliope Lindau is a 4-year-old girl who loves to play outside any chance she gets. She has Williams Syndrome, which causes limited movement in her legs and means she cannot always catch up with her siblings.
That changed on Thursday as three high school students from the Billings Career Center custom-built her a toy car that will allow her to operate the vehicle completely on her own.
The students, Ainsley Lennick, Elijah McCoun, and Kai Pohlman, from Eric Anderson's Go Baby Go independent study course, gifted the child with the adaptive electric toy car fully decorated in pink with Disney princesses and a customized "Calliope" license plate in the front.
Not only do these features make it stand out from standard toy cars, but the steering wheel, audio buttons, and seat were made by the students so Calliope could better access and operate it.
Go Baby Go builds each car based on the needs of the child. They have been working on this project for about three months and used 3D printers to create some of the features and used other engineer design skills for the buttons and petals. The course solely focuses on building these cars to give students real-life applications to their engineering skills.
Each year, students in the course pick a child in need through a nomination process where the public can submit children who might benefit from the project. Lennick had a huge hand in helping them pick Calliope and she felt that the 4-year-old was the perfect candidate after receiving the nomination from her preschool teacher.
"After seeing her and have her go through the car and kind of going through the list of everything we need to do to help her out, it was just a pretty simple choice," said Lennick. "This adorable little girl would like a car to better be able to fit in and play with her siblings, like who doesn’t want to give a kid a chance to have a normal childhood, so it was pretty easy to choose Calliope.”
Lennick also assisted in their social media and artistic design of the car.
"I was a little nervous that she wouldn’t like my stickers and everything because that’s just the part that I’ve been excited about, but she immediately saw the car and she threw her body down on the hood and she started, like, kissing the stickers that I’d put on there and saying, 'This pink car,' and that she loves it so much and that it’s her princess car," said Lennick.
With the design and communication experience of Lennick and the engineering experience of McCoun and Pohlman, the three made the perfect team. Polman has had a passion for engineering and first took a drafting class at Skyview High School where he encountered a 3D printer for the first time. From there, he became interested in the field and has been taking several engineering courses at the Career Center.
“I’ve been doing this kind of stuff for a long time," said Polman.
As he nears completing his senior year of high school, he has found this class as a great opportunity to expand his skills.
"Honestly I learned about my own skills. I knew I had some pretty good proficiencies in it, but I didn’t know some of the places I lacked," said Polman. "It was a really good learning experience to actually take the skills I’ve learned in classes and see them implemented into something real that amounted to something, so that was really nice."
Not only has this course helped expand engineering skills for the students, but also allowed them to give back to the community.
"It’s a lot of work and it’s kind of draining. It’s another thing to tack onto the busy schedule as a senior from applying to colleges and doing all these things going on, so it’s another thing to tag on some days it’s kind of hard to justify in your own head, 'Why am I doing this?' So this is a really good experience to be able to be able to give it to her, (see) her smile, and see that she’s actually enjoying it so much because it just makes it all kind of worth it,” said Polman.
The class plans on completing more cars before the school year ends and will be searching soon for another candidate. If you would like to nominate a child for a custom car, click here to reach out to the Go Baby Go team.