When Michelle Jones, an instrumentation engineer with Hargrove Engineers + Constructors, Mobile, Ala., heard about an 11 year-old girl named Emma Pablo with limited mobility due to cerebral palsy, she was inspired to help—and that inspiration quickly spread throughout the company.

With President and CEO Ralph Hargrove’s blessing, Jones reached out to fellow engineers and designers who would share her vision for building something that would enrich Emma’s life and give her access to the tools she needed to learn to move around in space and control her environment.

Many mobility-limited children do no not qualify for an insurance-provided electric wheelchair, as they must prove their ability to independently control the chair before they can receive aid.

With the help of colleagues Jeff Holt, Jerry Brown, Jerry Gardner, Matthew Jones, Bryan Sargent and Justin Lee, the team modified an off-the-shelf toy car and dubbed it EMMA (Engineered Machine for Mobility and Access). The effort required more than 400 volunteer hours and a $1,000 price tag covered by sponsor donations.

As part of the Hargrove Adaptive Toy (HAT) project, future EMMAs will be customized with head switches, joysticks and push buttons to accommodate individual needs related to blindness, autism and other disabilities. Future recipients will be randomly selected from applications submitted by physical therapists to harGIVES, the company’s new 501(c)3 volunteer organization. This year, harGIVES plans to produce up to 10 individualized EMMAs (at a cost of approximately $1,500 each) out of the Mobile, Ala., office, with the HAT project expanding to other Hargrove locations in the future.

harGIVES also has partnered with the University of South Alabama Engineering Department to develop up to three EMMAs to be placed in physical therapists’ offices, camps and schools. Engineering students will be engaged in the design and construction of the adapted toy vehicles as part of their senior-level capstone
course.

“My favorite quote is ‘there’s no exercise that’s better for the human heart than reaching down to help another human being,’” says CEO Ralph Hargrove. “Hargrove teammates are proud to be part of the communities in which we work, and we are focused on making a difference. We are truly the right people, in the right place, at the right time—not only when it comes to engineering, but also when it comes to giving and serving.” 

Joanna Masterson is senior editor of Construction Executive. For more information, email masterson@abc.org, visit constructionexec.com or follow @ConstructionMag.