LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Christmas came early today for a Lubbock toddler and her family.
After a year in the making, senior Mechanical Engineering students at Texas Tech revealed their prototype of a Toddler Mobility Device to help small children with physical disabilities get around on their own - a product that is now patent pending.
The students, their professors and the little girl's physical therapists were all together on Wednesday as she tested out the mobility device that will now be her own.
Deep in the halls of the mechanical engineering department at Texas Tech, seniors are hard at work on their final projects.
But for Eddie Erlbacher and Sebastian Bahamonde, this project holds a deeper meaning.
"We've been up here at 2 a.m. painting the body, sanding the body. We really got into this," Erlbacher said.
These graduating seniors and four other group members have spent more than a year working on this Toddler Mobility Device for children with disabilities, an idea brought to them by Pam Baker at Pediatric Therapy when she came back from a conference.
"They were introducing the concept...of putting small children in devices where they could use a joystick or some other parameter where they could actually get themselves from point A to point B," Baker said.
Today was the day Pam and these engineering students would test it out, with a very special little girl, 3-year-old Ava Rosales
"She's this amazing little girl with a very bright, energetic personality," Baker said. "She has a condition called arthrogryposis which is a congenital condition that affects her joints."
"She has to literally roll around to get around. Or she'll scoot, or she'll get on one knee. But it's a time consuming thing," Ava's father, Ricardo Rosales, said.
At first, Ava wasn't sure about her new mobility device, but after just a few minutes with it, she was zooming around, full of smiles. And she was doing this all on her own, leaving her mom and dad in awe.
"Emotional watching her, seeing her get off and get on. And taking off, and learning the process within minutes. You can't, there isn't anything to describe that," Rosales said.
As touching as this was for Ava's family, this was the moment the engineering students had dreamed of for a year.
"As soon as we began to see it come to life, it immediately just hit us that this was going to change a child's life," Bahamonde said. "We are creating something that is going to give a child an ability to forget their disability for a while."
The joy on Ava's face, the determination in her eyes, and knowing Ava could now go somewhere she wanted to go on her own, made this day an unforgettable one.
"I can't think of anything more rewarding," Baker said.
"Early Christmas gift, you just can't repay," Rosales said.