June 24, 2020


Our Innovative and Life-Changing Solutions

Challenge:  Wheelchair Transfer Device
Challenger:  Jeff Dolezal, Air Force Veteran
University Partner:  Virginia Tech
Student Team:  Cassie Yauch, Cole Berger, Dixie Cox, Matt Fickes, Garrett Mills, Nicholas Russell, Yichen Wang, Lemuel Nelson
Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Michael Roan
QL+ Program Manager:  Janet Papazis

Project Summary:

The wheelchair transfer device project was conducted for a QL+ client. The challenger for this specific project was Jeff Dolezal. Jeff served in the Air Force and was injured in a motorcycle wreck in 1980. The accident caused spinal damage and as a result, Jeff uses a manual wheelchair every day for mobility. Jeff enjoys traveling all over the United States to meet other veterans and likes doing activities such as wheelchair basketball and playing billiards. When he travels, he often has difficulty transferring from his wheelchair to taller hotel beds. He also likes to go off-roading which often requires getting into taller vehicles. Ultimately, Jeff wanted a transfer device that could raise his wheelchair a few inches from ground level to make his common daily transfers easier, safer, and more independent.

The team first contacted Jeff and asked questions regarding his current transfer process and what he envisioned in a product. Jeff was more than happy to provide the team with a ton of information including photos and videos of his current transfer process and quick remedies for difficult transfers. The team utilized the first meeting with him to establish a thorough list of customer needs including stability, user safety, and portability of a transfer device. The team then generated ten potential solution concepts consisting of pneumatic, electric, and manual lifting options and presented them to Jeff. Jeff provided feedback on the concepts which helped the team narrow the possibilities down to a single design consisting of multiple layers of platforms that could be stacked on top of each other for different height adjustments. The design also featured a hinged ramp that could work with any preset platform height. A prototype of the design was constructed out of wood with an interior foam support and it proved sturdy enough to support the weight of a team member and wheelchair. The team modeled the design in Inventor with the platform and ramp exterior materials like acrylic, interior supports as high-density foam, and the surfaces in contact with the wheelchair as perforated aluminum sheets. Software analysis was conducted on the Inventor assembly to determine the maximum stress and deflection for potential loading conditions. Analysis results were satisfactory with a factor of safety of two. The team then focused on creating user assembly instructions and a building plan for the team to follow.

The wheelchair transfer device was unable to be completed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team was nearly complete with cutting out the foam interior supports and was approximately halfway complete with preparing all of the aluminum pieces for the final assembly. The team has provided drawings and notes to aid with the altering of all aluminum and acrylic parts and the assembly of all individual pieces of the final design. A validation plan was also prepared to evaluate the final product performance.

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