GVSU engineering students create Halloween costumes for children in power mobility devices

GVL / Courtesy John Farris

GVL / Courtesy John Farris

Kyle Doyle

This Halloween, students from John Farris’ engineering 301 class teamed up with members of the Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital to design and build costumes for children in power mobility devices.

The students and a group of over 20 volunteers worked to help design, build and paint nine costumes that the children wore at a parade called “Halloween for the Rest of Us” at Mary Free Bed Saturday, Oct. 29.

“The kids came to us with the concepts and we looked up how other people had done it, and we tried to make the designs our own,” said Jacob Stephens, a junior at GVSU.

The process was divided up into two days: a planning day and a build day which took place Friday, Oct. 21 and Saturday, Oct. 22, respectively.

Over the course of the two days, students and volunteers worked together to create the nine costumes ranging from two bat-mobiles, a patrol car from the show “Paw Patrol” to a lamp from Disney’s “Aladdin” and even Rainbow Dash from the show “My Little Pony.”

The team designed nine different bases out of two-by-fours and zip ties for each individual chair.

“Each chair is different so we had to build a different base around each chair,” said Taylor Rieckhoff, a junior at GVSU. “We had to make sure that the bases wouldn’t interfere with the regular movement of the chairs.”

The students programmed LED lights to attach to a few of the children’s costumes, in an effort to add more flair. The patrol car even had flashing lights and a siren.

The children receiving the costumes were excited to see what the final products would look like.

During the build day, a few of the children were able to visit the teams working on building the costumes and were overjoyed to see the progress that was being made. Stephens said he could see their faces “light up.”

“One of the kids I was working with loved his costume,” Stephens said. “He was rolling around in it for 30 minutes before it was even painted.”

Originally, the students and Farris were going to be working with a handful of volunteers but were shocked by the number of people that showed up to help.

Rieckhoff said she was encouraged by how many people wanted to help the students build the costumes.

Stephens says Mary Free Bed is pleased with the work and effort that was put in and they may have the Lakers come back and design costumes for a Christmas event of some kind.

Both Stephens and Rieckhoff said the project was a great deal of fun and that they hope Mary Free Bed continues the costume program next year, as it provides a way for the children to not be defined by their mobility chairs.

“The whole idea was that you couldn’t see the chair,” Rieckhoff said. “So people would forget the chair and see just the costume and see the kids as regular kids.”