Caudal regression syndrome is a rare congenital disorder that occurs in about one out of every 25,000 live births. It affects the fetal development of the lower spine, and can result in everything from barely noticeable differences to serious ones. In Sean’s daughter's case, the condition caused her to be born without legs — and therefore limited her mobility. When Sean came across the Power Wheels Wild Thing ride-on vehicle, he decided it would be the perfect way to let his daughter get around and play in the yard.
This particular model of ride-on is unique, as it doesn’t follow the typical car-like aesthetic of most Power Wheels vehicles. Instead of using pedals and a steering wheel for controls, this uses a pair of joysticks to control the direction and speed of each of the two driven wheels. That control layout is ideal for Sean’s daughter, since she can drive the ride-on using just her hands. Sean found a used Wild Thing with a missing charger on Facebook Marketplace for just $50, and he quickly snatched it up. Upon getting it home, however, he ran into a some problems.
After charging the Wild Thing’s battery, he found it was working properly. Unfortunately, the controller wasn’t. Something was wrong with the motor drivers, and so Sean decided to replace them altogether. To do that, he used a NodeMCU ESP8266 development board paired with two BTS790s motor drivers. Those motor drivers are affordable, but can still handle the high amperage needed for the Wild Thing’s motors.
Sean decided to utilize the original joysticks, and the wires from those are attached to the NodeMCU. The NodeMCU, in turn, tells the motor drivers which direction to spin and at what rate. As an added bonus, the wireless capability of the NodeMCU allows Sean to remotely control the Wild Thing if his daughter gets a little overzealous while driving. The result is a fantastic and affordable way for her to get outside and move around independently.