SHU Engineering Builds Go-Karts to Raise Money

This semester, Sacred Heart University’s freshman engineering students are building go-karts to raise money for the Simply Smiles Children’s Village as a way to incorporate community service into their curriculum.

The freshman engineering class, Engineering Explorations, is constructing go-karts from scratch as part of their design project. While learning technical engineering skills is a key aspect of the class, students also experience the opportunity to work with organizations to give back to the community, according to Professor Tolga Kaya, Director of Engineering.

“As part of the class, I also wanted to give them some social awareness,” said Kaya. “We looked at all of the university’s community departments, the students made presentations to see which organization they wanted to work with, and they decided on Simply Smiles.”

Simply Smiles, Inc is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that builds villages of foster homes. The organization operates a Children’s Village in Oaxaca, Mexico, and is currently building a village for Native American children on the Cheyenne River Reservation in South Dakota.

The young engineers partnered with Simply Smiles to set up a fundraising page and are collecting donations for the construction of a playground for the South Dakota village.

“Our Children’s Village on the Reservation is a community of foster families offering a child placement option that fulfills the spirit of the Indian Child Welfare Act by ensuring that Native children who have been removed from their homes can remain with kin and community,” said Simply Smiles Communication Manager, Alexandra Gross. “The playground is yet another element of our Village that will make the space even more welcoming to youth placed in our care.”

Not only are donors supporting Simply Smiles by contributing to the cost of construction of the playground, but they are also getting the chance to be a part of the engineering project by receiving special recognition. 

According to the fundraising page, donors will receive a special gift associated with the go-kart project depending on the amount they give.

“It’s great knowing that the money raised through this event is going to Simply Smiles giving children a place to run and play, possibly inspiring young new engineers,” said freshman engineering student Terry Ruffin.

This project also gives freshmen the opportunity to broaden their communication skills and become well-rounded students.

“Not only are they raising money for an organization, but they are also reaching out to professionals whom they will eventually work with in the future,” said Kaya. 

According to Kaya, the fundraiser has been quite a success and has been making steady progress so far. 

The students have raised a total of $2,102, making up 42% of their goal of $5,000. The fundraiser ends on Monday, May 30. They will be holding the go-kart race in a few weeks, after Easter break. 

“It’s been great working with Professor Kaya’s class,” said Gross. “We’re honored that they selected Simply Smiles to support in their project this semester, and they are helping to raise awareness of our Children’s Village on the Reservation in doing so.”

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