(Photo courtesy of the University of Delaware)
At the University of Delaware’s STAR campus, mobility is being served up with a side of ice cream.
The campus building is home to the new GoBabyGo Cafe, a pop-up stand which serves breakfast items and UDairy Creamery cones. Just like ice cream has a twist, so does this concept — the cafe employs people with limited mobility and utilizes a body-weight harness system.
To study mobility, Cole Galloway didn’t start with ice cream.
The UD professor of physical therapy’s office — complete with reworked Barbie Jeeps and PowerWheels, robot-driven vehicles and toys, games and equipment galore — is a research facility focused on seeking answers about infant development.
"Anne is walking and scooping with no problem. To see this progression as she goes along, it’s pretty cool."
Earlier this year, the GoBabyGo project — which was launched in 2006 — received a three-year, $515,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
Galloway and his team have been focused on rehabilitation for pediatric patients, but wanted to branch outside of traditional methods of rehab.
That’s why the Barbie Jeeps and other off-the-shelf toy racecars were reworked to give mobility to kids who have trouble walking and crawling. The goal — to empower those with limitations to take part in the action, rather than just watch from the sidelines.
“There is so much room for growth. Pediatric rehabilitation is everywhere, but research and development are very, very low,” Galloway said.
Galloway wanted to test out a harness system for pediatric patients, one that would allow children to both be able to move around freely and use their hands. He wanted a large steel beamed system in the lab, but also a portable version.
“We needed a smaller one that was portable so we could go out into real-world environments,” Galloway said. “We want to take the technology from the lab out to gyms and living rooms. We’re trying to build something that works.”
Cope and his brother, Steve Cope — who also works for the company — brainstormed and sketched up a handful of ideas for how a portable harness system would work. The finished portable system includes a sliding lever that rotates up and down the length of the equipment. That’s where the harness hangs down from.
The Copes — through Enlighten, a spinoff company created just for the support systems — have implemented four portable harness systems since coming up with the idea six months ago: one at a physical therapy clinic in Elkton, Md., two in residential homes and one down the hall from Galloway in the STAR campus lobby.
A body-weight support harness system is the main attraction at GoBabyGo cafe, a full-service cafe that opened last week. A requirement to stand and walk is no issue at the cafe, which employs community members that need physical assistance.
The cafe will serve bagels, breakfast items and ice cream. Galloway and Cope said they have already seen progress with one employee who has restricted movement.
“Anne is walking and scooping with no problem. To see this progression as she goes along, it’s pretty cool,” Cope said.
Cope said he’s seen the harness improve the life of a local little boy, who used to have to watch his brothers play together while he sat and watched.
“He plays air hockey with his brothers since he’s in the harness with his hands free. It changed his life,” Cope said.
Galloway said he’s excited about the GoBabyGo Cafe project, since it gives students and staff a first-hand look at how he and his team are integrating therapy seamlessly into everyday situations.
“It’s great to take these kind of technologies out there,” Galloway said. “It’s collaborative stuff and it pushes the envelope.”
In addition to the GoBabyGo Cafe, the Pediatric Mobility and Design Lab performs research, modifies mini race cars and works with UD design students to create fashionable baby and toddler clothes that provide body support.-30-
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