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Scott Openshaw, Mechanical Engineering, (515) 294-1197
Jess Comer, Mechanical Engineering, (515) 294-3097
Steve Jones, Heartland Area Educational Agency, (515) 270-9030
Skip Derra, ISU News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- Three-year old Colby Reams of Ankeny will be getting a new tractor on Thursday. But this isn't just any tractor.

The John Deere toy-pedal tractor has been the focus of semester-long projects by three teams of ISU engineering students. The students modified the tractor so Colby, who has cerebral palsy, could gain some mobility through its use.

From 2-4 p.m., on Thursday (May 9), 20 "physical assist" devices will be on display in the basement of Black Engineering by the Iowa State students who developed them. These projects are the work of nearly 90 Iowa State students. Many of them will be used to benefit those who face physical challenges.

Colby's new tractor is one of the new physical assist devices. Colby and his parents will be present Thursday afternoon to receive their modified tractor.

Colby has cerebral palsy and limited mobility. Patti Risinger, a physical therapist for Heartland Area Education Agency, provides physical therapy services for Colby. She learned about Colby's love of green John Deere tractors. He can't ride a regular child's tractor, and that's when Risinger went to work.

Risinger and Colby's parents worked with Iowa State's College of Engineering to discuss Colby's needs for a tractor. The tractor needed to be adapted so Colby could sit on it and move about.

Three teams of engineering students designed and made the adaptations from Risinger's recommendations. Freshmen engineering students created a special seat and harness to hold Colby. A team of senior mechanical engineering students developed a motor and a steering system, and a group of senior electrical engineering students did the wiring and put together the switches. (Additional modifications may be needed.) John Deere in Ankeny donated the tractor.

Colby, his parents, the ISU students, John Deere representatives and Risinger will be at the session Thursday afternoon.

Other projects that will be presented Thursday include:
  • A musical exercise bicycle for a wheel chair bound teenager. The bicycle encourages the user to ride it by stimulating the person with music.
  • An all terrain walker that could be used by a person who has cerebral palsy and a hip replacement. The walker allows the user to travel through relatively rugged terrain and has provisions to carry a backpack.
  • A motorized swing that can handle up to 90 pounds of weight and allow the occupant to swing automatically. Freshmen engineering students designed a seat for the swing in collaboration with a senior group that designed the mechanism to move the swing.


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