Joshua and Benjamin PhelpsPhoto by Paul Neevel

Joshua and Benjamin Phelps

High school inventors making a difference

When twins Joshua and Benjamin Phelps were four years old and living in Pittsburgh, their dad Randy Phelps taught them to build a circuit with a battery and a motor. “He got us interested,” Joshua says, and two years later the family moved to Eugene, their dad’s hometown. “Over the years, we’ve built many more complex circuits.” They ran wires throughout the house for an in-home telegraph system and built an electric airplane that flew five blocks before landing in a tree. As middle-schoolers at Roosevelt, they acquired a programmable Arduino microprocessor to build a solar panel that tracked the sun and a computer cursor controlled by raising an eyebrow. When their father, a doctor at the Child Development and Rehabilitation Center, learned of the nationwide Go Baby Go (GBG) project that transforms toy ride-on cars into mobility vehicles for young kids with disabilities, he alerted his sons. “We went to a workshop and learned to build a car,” Benjamin reports, “with a go-button on the steering wheel and a frame for back support.” The brothers, now sophomores at South Eugene High School, added a microprocessor and a joystick to make their GBG fire truck more useable for kids like 3-year-old Luca. Diagnosed with cerebral palsy, Luca doesn’t walk and has limited use of only his right hand. He has fun driving and socializing, and he gains skills with the joystick that enhance his prospects for a motorized wheelchair in the future. The twins built 10 trucks last summer and introduced the project to the South Eugene Robotics Team, which has built three more. To support the local Go Baby Go effort, visit