Watching a couple of her loved ones play with toys, Micki Grover had a sudden inspiration.
“They’re on the autism spectrum, so seeing the fidget toys they play with inspired me to create better toys,” says Grover, a 2018 mechanical engineering graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth who has designed toys for kids with special needs.
Grover’s fidget toy design looks like a train made up of wooden and bright red plastic blocks with wheels and connecting parts that can be easily twisted into shapes. She reached out to the Occupational Therapy program at the College of St. Scholastica, where she was put in touch with the family of a young boy seeking therapy to improve his motor functions.
“His mom is excited to be a part of this,” Grover said. “The family talked about needing a toy that would use both hands.” That boy, along with kids at the UMD day care center, took to toys designed by Grover and other UMD students with gusto.
“They came up with ways to use the toys that we hadn’t even thought of, and some of the kids did not want to quit,” says Grover, who is now beginning her career as a manufacturing engineer.