George Tillett is a Swans supporter, he has a keen interest in motor racing and ‘does a bit with computers’. He enjoys spending time with family and drives the bus at the retirement village where he lives with his wife, Jenny.
George has been a volunteer at TAD for 5 years. His friend John said, “Now George, when you retire you must volunteer at TAD!”
The two friends worked together at IBM for many years. George joined IBM in 1965 where he worked as a technician installing and repairing computing mainframes for the following 45 years. “I was a university drop out,” he laughs.
George had enrolled to study Electrical Engineering but decided it wasn’t for him. “I was interested in radios, I liked to pull them apart and people started giving me their old radios to fix. I dropped out of uni and worked at a radio repair business. When TV’s became common the boss sent me out to fix those too,” George said. The boss also sent him to a dedicated TV and radio repair school where George skipped 2 years of the course and was soon teaching.
When asked why he wanted to volunteer at TAD, aside from John’s recommendation, George said, “I’ve had a fortunate life compared to the challenges faced by people living with disabilities. You want to do anything you can to make their lives easier.”
The best thing about volunteering at TAD is, “the combination of being able to help others, seeing the kids get excited and using my skills and background to do that,” he said.
George is a self-taught mechanic, he owns a 1979 Alfa Romeo GTV and races with his son Pete at Mount Panorama. However lately George has been working on some slightly smaller vehicles at TAD.
George has been modifying electronically motorised cars for young children with disability. He is about to deliver his 6th car and has been developing his design and method along the way.
First, he sources the car kit which he uses as a base then he builds seating which can be adjusted to the correct angle to accommodate the child’s individual trunk support needs.
Standard children’s cars, “often take off quickly and come to an abrupt stop which creates a jerking motion and is a bit harsh on the kids,” George said.
To avoid this he installs custom electronics, controlled by a joy stick and Arduino computer chip. George has written his own program in C++ coding to ensure the car starts, stops and manoeuvres safely. His design also has adjustable speed ranges which can be easily set by adult supervisors and the cars now take off slowly. The steering controls have been moved from the steering wheel to the joystick so children who have limited hand movement.
Occupational Therapist Helena Young from Children’s Hospital Westmead said, “the car provides her young clients with independent mobility and fun. The children learn how to use a joystick control, this is helpful for future independence in using a powered wheelchair. George has taken the initiative to source inexpensive but effective technical solutions to make the electric cars useable for young children with physical disabilities.”
George has been nominated in the NSW Volunteer of the Year Awards for his work at TAD. The Awards are hosted by The Centre for Volunteering to recognise outstanding efforts and highlight the importance of volunteering to the community.
TAD CEO Dr Anthony Lowe says, “George’s nomination reflects the dedication and hard work he puts into changing the lives of people living with a disability. He is one of the leads of a team of volunteers exploring how new technologies such as micro-controllers, 3D printing and the Internet of Things can help people, particularly children, achieve their goals. He is always delightful and will help out with anything from moving furniture to driving our van. And for that, we are so grateful to have him as a volunteer.”
George said, “I’m sure there are many more qualified and deserving people that should be nominated before me. I guess I reluctantly accept the nomination, it is nice!”
For more information on these Joy Stick Controlled Ride on Cars see https://tad.org.au/product/joystick-controlled-ride-on-car/