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Courtesy of Pittsburg State University

Students’ senior project assists handicapped

Seven mechanical and manufacturing engineering technology seniors are going in a new direction with their senior project this year. The group is creating a design that will provide an experience of a lifetime to those who are handicap. 

Seniors Mitchell Yeomans—project lead—Joshua Alstatt, Ayman Alsunay, Trey Byrne, Adam Fogle, Nick Haynes, and Devin Lynn have worked since the beginning of the fall 2019 semester to create their design, a wheelchair accessible pedicab. The group is collaborating with Live Well Crawford County, as many of the senior projects often include a community partner. 

“So the reason this is a kind of a unique project is … we were given the task of designing something that could transport someone that is in a wheelchair or someone that is disabled and Live Well, Age Well Crawford County the group … were interested in buying their own pedicab, and so they brought this idea to … the senior design class so that maybe we could build one for them instead of them having to spend a few thousand dollars on buying their own,” Yeomans said. “So what makes ours different is we took that idea of a pedicab and … kind of implemented it with our beginning designs and thought … we could probably make this in a way where we remove the bench seat and we’d just have a little platform for a wheelchair to roll up into, so that way if someone was in a wheelchair they wouldn’t have to get out of their wheelchair to be able to have a ride, pretty much. So it makes it easier for anybody who is helping … and makes it easier for the handicap individual …” 

Yeomans said they are creating the pedicab with a removable bench seat in order to suit to both individuals in wheelchairs and elderly with disabilities who cannot ride a bicycle. 

“… What we’re trying to accomplish is being able to give people the means and accessibility to have this outdoor activity, like riding a bike, for people who aren’t able to ride bikes anymore … maybe something they miss, they want to do that they did when they were younger, and now they’ll actually have that opportunity,” Yeomans said. “And then for anyone who has never been out of a wheelchair or has been disabled their entire life, it’ll give them an opportunity that they’ve never had before. So helping these people kind of enjoy some type of outdoor activity that they might not otherwise have is definitely probably the biggest reach that we’re going for because we feel like if we can help other people’s lives then it’s more than just trying to get through class, it’s actually a useful thing for people.” 

Yeomans said that the project is a “win for everyone” involved. The project is due for completion in late March, at which point the pedicab will be given to Live Well Crawford County and students from PSU’s Health and Human Performance Recreation (HHPR) department will volunteer to run the pedicab. 

Group members liked the pedicab project because it was something different than the typical senior projects. 

“I thought it was really cool, mostly because it’s unique, you know, like they do rovers every year, they do Baja every year; this is something different that got brought to us,” Byrne said. “I mean the way they showed us a picture of what they wanted was a person sitting in a bike behind someone in a wheelchair and they were like, ‘That’s what we want,’ and so it was kind of like free range. And it’s really cool that it’s actually going to stay around and be used, hopefully, once we’re done.” 

The overall intent of the pedicab is to provide an outdoor experience to those who have not been able to have that experience. Live Well Crawford County, a nonprofit promoting healthy living, includes five task forces: Live Active, Eat Well, Breathe Well, Work Well, and Age Well.  

Laura Covert-Miller, associate professor and co-chair for Age Well, assisted in generating the idea of mechanical and management engineering technology seniors creating a pedicab. 

Brad Stroud, Live Well Crawford County director, said in a PSU press release that this project will prove beneficial to those in assisted living centers and individuals who are disabled, as these groups often show higher levels of depression. 

“We feel this project really focuses on helping a group of people who often are left out or forgotten,” Stroud said. “There will be connections and relationships that form and build between volunteer pedalers and the pedicab riders 

Alstatt said he is happy that he is part of this group and had the opportunity to help create this pedicab project. 

“It’s a good project,” Alstatt said. “We had several options … and so of the choices I’m glad I chose this one, it’s actually going to help people. … That’s the point of the design, we’re making it handicap accessible. So we want, at its most general concept, we want a bike riding experience that anyone can enjoy.” 

The group said they work well together, with few difficulties, and that each member does their share of the work. Alstatt said this project has allowed him hands-on work that applies directly to his future. 

David Miller, associate professor and team advisor, said the team has learned a lot from participating in the project, such as adhering to ADA requirements and more. 

“I think it’s been a good project,” Miller said. “I think they’ve been learning a lot about the design process and what it takes to kind of make an accessible product for a range of different users. … Especially when you’re designing stuff with like an assistive capacity like this it’s good for them to see that it takes a lot of work on their part to really nail down what it is that they need. So, there’s a lot of stuff that they didn’t think about at the start that they’re having to work into the design now. … So it’s a lot of different things that you wouldn’t normally think about as a kind of entry level graduate.”

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