An article recently published on 4WWL explores the amazing beach wheelchair design of LSU students. On April 30, Cheslyn Simpson was officially able to visit the beach with her family with help from nine Louisiana State University engineering students.
The group of dedicated students designed and built a motorized wheelchair so that the 23-year-old from Plaquemine, La can comfortably visit the beach with her family on their annual beach vacation trip. The Simpson family would usually use a regular wheelchair, but beaches are not wheelchair accessible in terms of travel. Recreational wheelchairs are extremely uncommon.
The initial plans for the wheelchair were created by seniors in the class 2018, who were not able to take the next step toward building and testing the wheelchair. They did, however, leave their plans with the hopes of the next graduating class finishing the project and gifting it to Simpson.
Simpson has Friedreich’s Ataxia, a rare genetic disease that causes progressive damage to the nervous system and movement problems. The disorder normally displays symptoms between 10 and 15 years old. The disorder causes impaired speech, a loss of sensation in the arms and legs, and difficulty walking. In 2017, Simpson’s speech therapists urged her to write as essay asking for help visiting the beach with her family to the LSU Senior Capstone Design Program.
The wheelchair has three fat wheels for navigation, a cup holder, a cooler, and a Bluetooth speaker to play music. The students also included headlights, umbrella holders, and lights on the underside of the wheelchair that change colors. The group also consulted with Simpson on the design of the wheelchair as she chose the colors and the upholstery.
The initial group that began the project received a donation of $3,000 from the LSU Foundation. This year’s group created a GoFundMe that doubled the amount. Local businesses donated the welding and the frame. A company in New Zealand donated the motors. The students had every intention of purchasing all of the materials they needed but, thanks to generous donors, they didn’t have to.
To prevent the Simpson family from spending an unimaginable amount of money on a special wheelchair charger, the students made the new chair compatible with the one the family used for Cheslyn’s everyday chair.
This year there were 46 teams for the Senior Capstone Design Program. Each team was assigned a project and, this year, the projects varied immensely. There was a portable wheelchair for a child with cerebral palsy, a neighborhood surveillance system, a smart WiFi router system, and even a system to test the resistance of various sugarcane chopper blades to wear and tear.
The students participating in the Senior Capstone Design Program are all electrical and/or mechanical engineering majors at the university. This program is a way for them to take what they learned and put it to the test. It is safe to say that this project is one that most of them will not forget.
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