A group of children with special needs yesterday got to try out specially "hacked", or customised, toys ranging from remote-controlled cars to bubble-blowing machines.
The toys, which were purchased from stores, were modified by defence research organisation DSO National Laboratories, and presented to the children at an event called SG50 Hack-A-Toy! at the Rainbow Centre's Margaret Drive School.
Central District Mayor Denise Phua, who attended the event, said: "I'm thankful that the engineers have used their skills to help the special-needs community."
She added that she hoped more organisations would follow the example of DSO, which took up the challenge as part of its corporate social responsibility programme.
Six researchers from DSO worked for two months to modify 50 toys, to make them easier for children with special needs to play with.
For example, joysticks for remote-controlled cars were replaced with colourful buttons, while a small lever to switch on a bubble-blowing machine was replaced with a large button on a wired remote control.
Ms Hannah Leong, 29, president of Engineering Good, a non-profit organisation that helps disadvantaged communities with engineering projects, said toys for special needs children are often expensive, and difficult to find. "Hacking makes them more accessible and more affordable."
DSO senior researcher Lee Tong, 32, said the team underestimated how much effort would be required to hack the toys.
"We are not experts with toys," said Mr Lee, adding that there were some challenges in transferring his skills in defence engineering to modifying toys.
The Rainbow Centre operates two schools that cater for children with a variety of special needs, including Down syndrome, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and cerebral palsy. Ms Fauziah Ahmad, 50, principal of the Margaret Drive School, said: "We hope that this co-operation can continue, and more toys can be adapted for our children to play and enjoy."
This article was first published on Sept 18, 2015.
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