We were lucky to catch up with Aanand Mehta recently and have shared our conversation below.
Alright, Aanand thanks for taking the time to share your stories and insights with us today. We’d love to hear about how you went about setting up your own practice and if you have any advice for professionals who might be considering starting their own?
To provide some context, Rohan is an Eagle Scout, and he modified some cars in collaboration with the Munroe-Meyer Institute (at the University of Nebraska Medical Center) and Assistology Omaha as part of his Eagle Scout project in 2018. He was in love with the idea that he could transform just a few hours and limited money into something that children with developmental disabilities could use, while fostering social and motor growth.
In an effort to explore his interests in both music and volunteering, Aanand began volunteering at the Neurologic Music Therapy Services of Arizona in 2019, and it was there that he observed the need for electric assistive mobility vehicles. This inspired him to directly help children with developmental disabilities gain a sense of freedom, and start an organization with which he could accomplish that aspiration.
So, in July of 2021, we both founded Magical Motors with the goal of initiating an organized system of building assistive technologies for children while creating chapters throughout the world that spread our ideas. Through this process, we want to create a more inclusive and equitable community where every child has the right to mobility.
It took us months of hard work, paperwork, and correspondence to form a registered 501(c)(3) organization. The next step was finding our target market. In terms of that, we started off local, spreading the word on social media groups, and the future-recipients began communicating with us to have a car made for them. In late-2021, we began networking with other like-minded groups, such as STEM organizations and therapy clinics, and we are in the midst of forming partnerships with them, in an effort to implement our program in their facilities.
To any young professional (like us) looking to make a difference in the community by registering a 501(c)(3) organization, make sure that you have a target audience in mind and a defined, detailed, and organized plan of how you will help your target audience. In addition, a successful and passionate entrepreneur is always willing to elaborate upon their ideas to anyone, as they may allow you to develop connections that can expand your mission. In other words, the skill of networking, or contacting other like-minded individuals to further your outreach, is vital.
Awesome – so before we get into the rest of our questions, can you briefly introduce yourself to our readers.
Currently, in the United States, more than 1 in 6 children have a developmental disability, notably autism spectrum disorder and cerebral palsy. In terms of mobility, nearly 500,000 children suffer from mobility issues from birth, and that number is rapidly growing. The current solution to that is pediatric power wheelchairs. However, pediatric power wheelchairs, sold by price-hiking companies, retail for tens of thousands of dollars and can take several years to receive, thus discouraging the child from seeking alternatives to overcome their disability.
Championing an inclusive environment is critical in the progression of our society, and can solely be accomplished by furthering activities that promote collaboration amongst all members of the community. And through Magical Motors, we are establishing a group of like-minded individuals who are ambitious to disrupt the overpriced pediatric power wheelchair industry and become assimilated into a diverse community.
As opposed to pediatric power wheelchairs, which cost thousands of dollars and take several years to receive, our Magical Motors cars cost a few hundred dollars and only take 3 hours to entirely build. We accomplish this by opening up the car and rewiring the foot/accelerator pedal into a hand-controlled button, using soldering and drilling techniques; the button is eventually attached to the steering wheel. We also create back support and seat accommodations using accessible materials, including PVC pipes and kickboards. Finally, we aesthetically customize the car towards the recipient’s liking, allowing for a sense of personalization that is not feasible with the car’s expensive counterpart. We perform these modifications while still maintaining recipient satisfaction and safety as our priority. While operating these vehicles, recipients nurture their motor and cognitive abilities, while advancing their autonomy.
We take pride in the happiness that we have been fortunate to provide to so many kids with developmental disabilities, by simply modifying a car. And we’re most excited that we will be able to provide that feeling to other students across the nation by introducing our ideas. We’re also proud that we are developing a “web-like network” where we are able to conglomerate the fields of therapy, medicine, engineering, education, and volunteering in an effort to build a more equitable society.
Regarding myself, I am a 16-year-old junior at BASIS Phoenix in Phoenix, AZ. I’ve been playing the cello for the past 7 years and singing Indian classical music for the past 11 years, prompting my interest in the interplay between music, medicine, and volunteering. To explore the juxtaposition of music and volunteering, I formed a musical group in 2019, Musical Minds, that plays music at assisted living facilities across Arizona. I am also pursuing several research opportunities at Arizona State University and the University of Arizona School of Medicine, and I aspire to be a physician in the future.
Let’s talk about resilience next – do you have a story you can share with us?
In March of 2022, we adapted a ride-on Mercedes for a 3-year-old girl named Quinn, who has caudal regression syndrome, a disorder characterized by the incomplete development of the lower spine (sacrum). When we initially gave the car to Quinn, she was not as ecstatic as we thought she would be, and was somewhat resistant to getting into her new, customized car. We found that we should install another seatbelt and add some more support. From this, I (Aanand) realized that, initially, not everyone has the same, excited reaction, and that it is our responsibility to ensure that the recipient has that picture-perfect smile while riding their car. “Not everything always goes your way;” it is human to confront moments that lead to an unforeseen outcome. So, I got to work: I installed a new seatbelt, made the car remote-controlled, and also reinforced it with support. Just a few days later, I was able to provide Quinn with her revamped car, and she was now excited to ride her car! Since then, she has been improving in her motor and developmental skills, and we all couldn’t be more elated!
Training and knowledge matter of course, but beyond that what do you think matters most in terms of succeeding in your field?
At Magical Motors, we strive to provide immense benefits to both the builders and the recipients. And for this, we aspire to fulfill two duties simultaneously: building and spreading our curriculum to students, along with making sure that kids with developmental disabilities get the right to mobility. So, other than training/knowledge, there is a two-way tie between the concept of compassion and the skill of networking.
First, the concept of compassion is what drives a builder to modify a car. It allows them to develop an understanding of how the future recipient is affected, and how they can assist the children to their best potential. When you “put yourself in someone else’s shoes,” it allows you to cultivate a deeper sense of what they are undergoing. At Magical Motors, a key step to a builder successfully providing a vehicle to someone is truly comprehending the limitations the recipient is experiencing, and how those barriers can be minimized. We also facilitate this by allowing for customization of cars. For example, we always ask the recipient and the recipient’s family if they like a specific car brand, color, and if one side is weaker than another. One of our first recipients, Persephone, who has cerebral palsy, wanted a black Jeep Wrangler with her name on it and stickers of Disney princesses, and we delivered! She was so happy when she got her car, and that compassion to help her inspired me (Aanand) to help so many more children.
Second, the skill of networking is what allows for a sustainable nonprofit organization. Networking is when you contact other like-minded individuals to further your outreach. Any successful and passionate entrepreneur is always willing to elaborate upon their ideas to anyone, because they may allow you to develop connections that can expand your mission. Before founding my nonprofit, I (Aanand) was very reserved and shy. But now, I have “come out of my shell,” and I attribute this to the interpersonal skills I have refined after creating Magical Motors. And this passion to help children with developmental disabilities has allowed Rohan and I to collaborate with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, Arizona SciTech Institute, ACCEL, Southwest Human Development, and more!
- Website: magicalmotors.org
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/magicalmotors
- Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/magical-motors
- Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/MagicalMotors
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCusHLgC2zP_ALm-zYrE1–w/featured
- Other: GoFundMe: https://www.gofundme.com/manage/help-all-children-gain-freedom-to-mobility
Ben Semisch Photography