Piles of plastic tubing, swim noodles, stuffed animals, and battery-powered Jeep and Barbie cars everywhere is what you’ll see if you happen to drop by Cole Galloway’s workspace at the University of Delaware. Galloway, 48, is a physical therapy professor and infant behavior expert who is focused on providing mobility to children with cognitive or physical disabilities. His work started with him observing how children learn to move their bodies and the difference between typically developing children and those who suffer from mobility issues due to conditions like cerebral palsy and Down syndrome which Galloway called “the exploration gap”.
In 2007 Galloway met Sunil Agrawal, a professor of mechanical engineering at the university, where they started thinking about working together during a conversation Galloway says went something like this: I’ve got small robots. You’ve got small babies. I wonder if we can do something together. And they definitely did something together; they started building power mobility robots that let disabled children explore their surroundings with greater ease and confidence. However this initial design cost tens of thousands of dollars and weighed up to 150 pounds, making them inaccessible to the families they were trying to help. After some more research and a trip to Toys ‘R’ Us Galloway shifted the idea from babies driving robots” to the lower tech “babies driving race cars,” and named the design Go Baby Go.
The biggest advantage with Go Baby Go is that the design is available for children until 3 during their critical early years of development, unlike electric wheel chairs. The estimate is that Go Baby Go has retrofitted an estimated 100 toy cars, not a large number compared to the half a million American children under the age of five who have mobility problems but Galloway is doing his best to spread his work through every medium, from travelling across the country and speaking with dozens of parents to posting YouTube videos. He says, “If you’re not going to drop what you’re doing and come work for us, at least contact us — we’ll send you everything we have.”