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Double Lives Series: Jay Rappaport Soups Up Power Wheels

August 14, 2013

Jay Rappaport

Ever wonder what Drexel professors do in their downtime? From performing in dance competitions across the country to souping up Power Wheels for a child’s enjoyment, there is never a dull moment for a Drexel employee outside the workplace. In a new series, DrexelNow shares some stories from faculty and staff members whose hobbies are just as unique as the University.

As a child, Jay Rappaport always loved remote control cars. And helicopters. And planes. And boats.

Anything with a battery and motor would do, he said. Mostly because he liked taking them apart, analyzing their parts and putting them back together.

Today, he hasn’t strayed far from his childhood hobby. But, he’s moved up in size.

Rappaport, a Drexel alumnus and manager of the IT Department in Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, enjoys souping up old Fisher Price Power Wheels—ride-on toy cars for kids—in his free time. Typically, he’ll clean out the gear boxes, do some rewiring, replace the motor, put in a motorcycle battery and add strobe lights, “because every kid needs strobe lights on his Power Wheels,” he said.

It all started about a year ago when Rappaport came across a broken Power Wheels ATV car.

“I started taking it apart to see if I could fix it and it was pretty clear that it was basically just a large remote control car, with a series of switches, a battery and a motor,” he said. “It’s really easy to do.”

Rappaport said it’s been a learning process along the way, but no injuries have resulted from his work, just a few melted wires. And lucky for him, he’s got a slew of colleagues in the College of Engineering who have been happy to answer his questions.

“They’ve been really great at specifying parts and components and stuff,” Rappaport said.

Although Rappaport’s 3-year-old son can’t yet steer very well, he loves riding his father’s creation.

“When he rides it, you see this pure smile from cheek to cheek,” Rappaport said. “He absolutely loves it, even with me running beside him.”

Now, Rappaport is stocking up on the pimped out wheels for when his 1-year-old son gets old enough to ride.

“My wife isn’t 100 percent thrilled about it, but I guess I could have worse hobbies,” Rappaport said. “I think what she appreciates is she sees my excitement about it. It reminds me of when I was a child.”

Three souped up Power Wheels and a crowded garage later, Rappaport said he’s going to have to start offering them up for sale so he can continue his hobby.

Next on his list: The addition of horns or engine sounds, to make the modified cars that much cooler.

“You can pretty much do anything in it,” he said. “I’ve researched it and found people have added headlights, and you could easily add a classic police car light.”

Interested in learning more? Check out modifiedpowerwheels.com, a website Rappaport came across a few months ago.