"Andy's Amazing Ambulance Ride" Thrills Kids, Combines Safety Education With Interactive Fun

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"Andy's Amazing Ambulance Ride" Thrills Kids, Combines Safety Education With Interactive Fun Community Safety Net Funding, Volunteer Efforts Bring "Andy" To Life

Mike Fox and "Andy the Ambulance"

I'm a paramedic and I love my job, but I like to expand and do some other things, too. We see a lot of preventable incidents out there. If you can reach one kid and help prevent one injury because they listened to you and took your advice, then that makes it all worthwhile

Ambulances are usually associated with emergency response, not prevention. But thanks to full-time Emergency Medical Technician Mike Fox and his sidekick — a little robot named "Andy" — it's the other way around for kids in Williams County, Ohio.

Five years ago, a community effort enabled the Williams County EMS to purchase an educational robot from a specialty robotics manufacturer in Utah. The unit was further customized, and “Andy The Ambulance” was born. Its main goal is to visit schools and educate kids on topics like bicycle safety, swimming, and especially seatbelt safety.

While many safety educators are hard-pressed to keep the attention of young children during a basic lecture, "Andy" has no such problem. Thanks to his flashing lights and sirens, moving eyes, motion, and ability to speak in a modulated voice, "Andy" captivates youngsters wherever he goes. A backstage operator using a lined in microphone can actually let "Andy" interact with his audience in a fun and engaging fashion.

The robot's growing popularity led Mr. Fox to the idea of building a larger model that would allow kids to actually climb in through Andy's back door and pretend they're an EMT driving an ambulance. Armed with funding support from Community Safety Net, Mike and a team of volunteers set out to construct a bigger version of "Andy".

The finished product is nearly the size of a real ambulance and can hold up to eight children. It consists of a tubular frame and a form fitting cover designed to look like the original "Andy" robot. The new model has a back door that opens, as well as seats with seatbelts, steering wheels, and a radio. A 42-inch flatscreen television represents the windshield and is used to display short videos that feature an animated version of "Andy" delivering safety tips, plus a simulated driver's viewpoint. The ride's platforms is fitted with springs and an automatic vibrator synched with the videos to replicate vehicle movement.

"Andy's Amazing Ambulance Ride" was unveiled last fall at the local county fair to rave reviews. Hundreds of kids got to experience the ride, and also received a gift bag containing safety-related coloring books and stickers. Some parents even sat in and learned about the job of an EMT. While the ride's video focuses on the role of an Emergency Medical Technician, the theme will be rotated over time, to keep the ride fresh for repeat visitors.

The ride is showcased at county fairs, in school classrooms, and at regional shopping malls. "Little Andy" hasn't been forgotten, either. The original robot is utilized alongside the bigger version, to maximize the number of kids who can participate at a time.

"I'm a paramedic and I love my job, but I like to expand and do some other things, too. We see a lot of preventable incidents out there. If you can reach one kid and help prevent one injury because they listened to you and took your advice, then that makes it all worthwhile," said Mr. Fox. "The new Andy robot has been very helpful in reaching children, and I'm very appreciative toward Community Safety Net for the generous funding they provided to help me and my team of volunteers complete this rewarding project."

"It's individuals like Mike who make this world a better place. His dedication to helping keep children safe is truly commendable and we are very proud to have helped support him in this worthwhile project. 'Andy the Ambulance' is a wonderful tool for educating kids, and we at CSN are very pleased to have Mike and the Williams County EMS as a partner in safety," said Corey DesJarlais, National Safety Director at Community Safety Net.

Community Safety Net is a family-run, values-oriented publisher that produces a series of highly regarded safety resources created especially for kids. To date, more than three million children in Canada and the U.S. have benefited from CSN materials. To reach CSN, please call 1.800.665.4878.

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