OSU engineering students fix toys for children with disabilities

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COLUMBUS -- Inside the halls of Smith Laboratory on the campus of the Ohio State University is a workshop that would make Santa jealous.

“I really felt like I was making an impact with my engineering skills and that’s what drew me to it,” undergraduate intern Matthew Ritzenthaler said.

The elves at this laboratory are engineering students. They aren’t making the toys; they are changing them for children with disabilities in the OSU College of Engineering Toy Adaptation Program.

“A lot of these toys we change have electronics to them so sound, light, movement,” Ritzenthaler said.

“We’ll pick a functionality within that toy that we want to adapt and make it useable for a child with a disability," he said.

The university uses grant money to purchase electronic toys like trains or noise making dolls.

Engineering students work to add an additional output so the toy can be modified with a switch. The new switch, button or lever allows children with physical disabilities to enjoy the sights and sounds of a toy they may not otherwise be able to use.

“There are some that are just a button with a larger surface area or maybe one that takes less pressure to operate and then there are some that just take a light head tapping,” undergraduate intern Victoria Kinzel said.

“It’s really important for their parents too ... their parents always get real excited when the kids can play with the toys by themselves with their switches," she said.

OSU's toy adaptation program also donates to toy libraries and toy lending programs.

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