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START-Play Hackers

Raised toward our $1,000 Goal
21 Donors
Project has ended
Project ended on April 11, at 11:59 PM EDT
Project Owners

START-Play Hackers

Who We Are – START-Play Hackers (Sitting Together and Reaching To–Play)

Giving children with disabilities the opportunity to play – that’s the mission of START-Play Hackers.

Play is critical to early brain development. Enjoying the play activity itself is the primary motivation for cognitive, social, and motor growth in childhood, as opposed to routine learning and memory. Play, as a vehicle for learning and as a joyful activity, is limited in children who have Cerebral Palsy or a disorder with similar physical limitations. Children with disabilities are unable to experience the joy and excitement of playing with many toys that you find on the shelves at Toys R’ Us and their reduced exposure to play may restrict their development of motor, perceptual and cognitive skills.

That’s where START-Play Hackers comes in.

This student organization, comprised of Duquesne University students from different science disciplines – occupational therapy, physical therapy and biomedical engineering – meet weekly to address the individual needs of children with disabilities. The interdisciplinary collaboration allows students to use their knowledge from various majors to find solutions to these unique issues. The students then work together to hack functional toys so that these children can enjoy all of the benefits that come along with play.

The students re-wire and modify switches and controls of the toys so they can be adapted for children with disabilities and motor impairments. It’s all completed with low-cost resources to customize these toys so they are safe, functional and affordable.

An Example of START-Play Hackers in Action

In one particular example, the organization learned of a child with muscle weakness who was unable to drive an electric toy car because he did not have enough strength to press a small button located in the center of the steering wheel. The students replaced that small push button with a large red switch button, added a contoured back for head and trunk support and a seatbelt and foam-covered guardrails on each side for safety.

Click here to watch a video of the child being able to drive the car thanks to the START-Play Hackers students.

Who We Help

START-Play Hackers works with families in the greater Pittsburgh area, as well as institutions such as the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind.

Why We Need Donations

START-Play Hackers use ingenuity and outside-the-box thinking to hack toys in the cheapest way possible, but donations are needed to help us enhance our current efforts and take our organization to the next level. Your gift will allow us to:

  • Purchase toys that we can hack and adapt so children with disabilities can enjoy like any other child
  • Buy the necessary tools to re-wire and modify switches and controls
  • Host STEM outreach events for schools in the surrounding area to teach younger students how to adapt toys
  • Provide transportation to visit facilities and families where toys are being donated

Please Donate Today and Spread the Word

We hope you will help us play a key role in giving these children the opportunity to play. Please donate today and help us spread the word about our campaign by sharing our page with family, friends, colleagues and on social media! #DUQPlay

We can’t wait to keep our donors informed about the impact your gifts will have on the children of the greater Pittsburgh area. Thank you!

Choose a giving level


Small Toy

Buys a small toy for an infant for us to adapt



Buys a simple switch to allow access to a toy


Support & Safety

Buys foam, PVC pipe, joints and supports to build a support



Buys a toolkit for building and adapting many toys


Ride-On Car

Buys a ride-on car for a small child to adapt and get them mobile

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