Marquette University and Penfield Children’s Center launch adaptive toys project to serve children with different abilities



November 9, 2022

The first of two construction days will be held on November 12 at the Marquette Engineering Pavilion

MILWAUKEE — Marquette University’s Opus College of Engineering and its Orthopedic Engineering and Rehabilitation Center (OREC), Penfield Children’s Center and Kohl’s Building Blocks Program have launched “Inclusive Play: Toys for all,” a project of adaptive toys for children with different abilities in Milwaukee County.

Opus College of Engineering and OREC will host Saturday, November 12, at Engineering Hall, 1637 W. Wisconsin Ave. The build days will feature local high school students and Marquette engineering students transforming traditional toys into adaptive toys. Through collaboration with local teams from FIRST Robotics and Marquette, participants will complete a training session and then perform the electrical modifications for installing adaptive switches on eight different styles of toys.

Adapting these toys with large button switches increases the accessibility for a child to independently engage the toy and feel the reaction.

“I found it difficult to involve children who have more severe global delays. I often found myself bringing regular toys to show the children and realized that I was the one activating the toy,” said said Vladimir Bjelic, speech therapist at Penfield Children’s Center.

OREC will lead the teams as they adapt 144 toys for use at the Penfield Children’s Center and the Marquette College of Health Sciences Speech and Hearing Clinic. The program includes eight different toys, including a teddy bear, a bubble machine and a guitar that will be used for treatment sessions or rented to be used at home.

Dr Gerald Harris, Professor of Biomedical Engineering and Director of OREC, said, “It is truly a pleasure for OREC to participate in the Marquette mission of service to others through this program. It’s amazing to see so many groups coming together to make this happen, including Marquette students, local high schools, FIRST Robotics teams, and our partners at Penfield Children’s and Kohl’s Building Blocks program.

Molly Erickson, OREC Engineer, will lead both Build Days.

“OREC’s community engagement efforts allow us to work every day to make a difference, and the Inclusive Play: Toys for All program helps us take the next steps in our community engagement efforts to help others,” Erickson said. “These Build Days are incredible STEM educational opportunities that focus on accessible and universal design, showing future engineers the value of designing products with everyone in mind – how the smallest change to adapt something can have a significant impact on someone’s life.”

Participating high schools include Ronald Reagan College Preparatory High School, Rufus King International High School, Lynde and Harry Bradley School of Technology and Business, Marquette University High School, and Divine Savior Holy Angels High School.

Media interested in attending a build day should contact Kevin Conway, associate director of academic communications at Marquette University, at

About Penfield Children’s Center

As a leader in child development, Penfield Children’s Center helps children with and without disabilities reach their full potential by providing early childhood education, health and wellbeing services and family programs. For more information about Penfield, media should contact Shelby Schnell, Director of Marketing and Communications, at

About Kohl’s Building Blocks Program

Thanks to the generous support of Kohl’s Cares, the Kohl’s Building Blocks Program helps the Penfield Children’s Center support children in Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. This comprehensive program provides children in need with access to early education and development programs, services and equipment.

About Kevin Conway

Kevin Conway

Kevin is the Associate Director of Academic Communications in the Office of Academic Relations. Contact Kevin at (414) 288-4745 or

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