Project Overview  |  Proof of Concept  |  Final Design  |  Fabrication  |  Testing and Results  |  Meet the Team  |  Acknowledgements

Project Overview

Current apparatuses used to help load wheelchairs into automobiles require assistance or permanent fixation within the vehicle. In addition, these devices are expensive and require a compatible vehicle. The market currently lacks a product that is both affordable and noninvasive that offers independent wheelchair loading for driving paraplegics. To combat this issue, Team 32 has partnered with a local nonprofit, the High Fives Foundation, to design a cost effective solution.

The Independent Wheeler is an aftermarket and non-invasive apparatus that aids non-ambulatory individuals in the transport of their wheelchair. The device can load, store, and unload an individual’s wheelchair, weighing up to 100 pounds, in and out of a vehicle. The Independent Wheeler is operable by non-ambulatory individuals without assistance from others. The Independent Wheeler is designed to meet Team 32’s budget of $1000.

The Independant Wheeler is a new product entering the mobility market. The product faces competition from Bruno Outrider and the Mobility Works Speedylift. The Bruno Outrider is limited to pickup trucks and leaves the wheelchair exposed to the environment. The Mobility Works Speedlift, while capable of loading into a minivan, requires significant modification to the vehicle. Both of our competitor’s products are very expensive. The Independant Wheeler aims to significantly undercut the prices of our competitors significantly increasing the market size available to our product. Team 32 has performed a market analysis and met with the non-profit organization, High Fives Foundation, to better understand the needs of non-ambulatory individuals. Similar to our competitors, our product will be made to order, allowing us to accommodate a wider range of vehicles. After our product has been manufactured, it will be delivered to the customer.



Proof of Concept

The proof of concept aims to show that the chosen design will load, store and unload a 60lb. wheelchair into and out of a minivan. The two main concerns of the design are how it will fit inside of the vehicle and if it will be structurally sound enough to lift the desired weight.

The design consist of a jib crane attached to a large steel plate attached to the middle row seat mounts of a minivan, seen in Fig. 1 below. Dimensions were determined to fit the vehicle. The total height of the device, 35 inches, is smaller than the height of the door, 44.5 inches, and the length of the shaft, 20 inches, is smaller than the width of the door, 30 inches. The distance between the end of the base plate and the forward mounting point is 17 inches, leaving enough room between the front seat and the base plate. Considering that a wheelchair is approximately 30 inches wide, the shaft will be placed at the edge of the car and will be able to pick the wheelchair at its center. An engineering analysis proved that the forces supporting the shaft and the plate do not need to be considerably large to maintain the system safely in place. The current design has proved feasible to lift the desired weight of 60 lb.

The other aspect proving that the design can work on the real world is that the system can move up and down and mechanically rotate. The jib crane will be bolted to the steel plate, with a rotating motor at its base. The load can move up and down using a winch motor and a pulley.

The proof of concept, the engineering analysis, and the SolidWorks model show that the design can be realized and materialized for real-life applications.


Final design

Product Design Specifications:

The product design specifications are defined by the project requirement specifications depicting different categories such as business, customer, usability, materials, labeling, environmental factors, product lifetime, safety, and regulation. Using these specifications, Team 32 produced a final design in collaboration with the founder of the High Fives Foundation, Roy Tuscany.

The most important specifications are related to the customer. The Independent Wheeler should be efficient; load the wheelchair in a minivan, store the wheelchair, and unload the wheelchair for a total cost of $1000. The main goal of this project is help our customers become more independent.

The proof of concept testing forced modifications of the final design. To meet PDS 3.2, “The Independent Wheeler must be positioned in the interior of a 1999 Honda Odyssey. Specifically, in the middle area of the car where the mid-row of seats is located,” Team 32 redesigned the product to better fit the interior size limitations of the minivan.

Another important PDS is that the Independent Wheeler must meet IEEE standards for electronic components, ASME requirements for mechanical devices and material strengths, and must be labeled to refer to the instructions manual and reduce any risk activity.

Characteristics of the Project:

The Independent Wheeler was designed to meet the needs of wheelchair using athletes of the High Fives Foundation. The Independent Wheeler makes use of a dual motor mono rail and slider design, paired with a vertical winch and pulley crane. The device is mounted across the mid row section of a minivan. The Independent Wheeler utilizes the preexisting seat anchor points and does not require further vehicle modifications. The Independent Wheeler is designed to lift a wheelchair from the ground, adjacent to the driver’s seat, to the inside of the vehicle. The wheelchair is stored in the mid row section of the vehicle during transit. The Independent wheeler moves the wheelchair from the mid row to the ground in the unloading phase. User input is required to attach and detach the wheelchair from the device using an oversized carabineer latch. The user also control the motion of the winch and slider with a remote control.

Purpose of the Project:

The purpose of the Independent Wheeler is to help non ambulatory individuals gain freedom through independence; being able to drive their own car without any outside help. The remote controlled device facilitates the loading, storing, and unloading of the wheelchair in the car and reduces the amount of user input for this daily task. The competitive price of our product is very important to reduce our customers’ financial burden. No extra cost will be added since the device does not need professional installation and is noninvasive- preserving the resale value of the vehicle. Without spending more than $1,000, the Independent Wheeler will help our customers in their everyday lives by loading, storing, and unloading their wheelchair in their minivan.



To fabricate The Independent Wheeler Team 32 utilized the makerspace and tools provided by the University Of Nevada, Reno’s Innevation Center. Team 32 took the proper safety initiatives to learn the procedures and techniques of the equipment used during fabrication and assembly.

Team 32 ordered the raw materials and off the shelf parts from various online vendors. Figure 1 shows an overview of the materials used for the fabrication and assembly of The Independent Wheeler. To fabricate the vertical and horizontal section of the jib crane Team 32 used a horizontal band saw to cut the 3 in. x 3 in. aluminum beam to size, as shown in Fig. 2. The horizontal band saw was also used to cut the mounting brackets, carriage plate and support arms to the specified sizes outlined in Team 32’s initial specification drawings. Hand files were used to smooth the edges of the cut materials. A handheld angle grinder was used to cut the diamond steel base plates to the sizes determined by the location of the seat bracket mounts inside of the minivan, outlined in the initial specification drawings. Pliers and a hacksaw were used to shorten the drive belt to the needed length outlined in Team 32’s specification drawings. A ruler, caliper, center punch, handheld drill, and various drill bits were used to drill and tap the appropriate holes for the fixation points used in the crane, monorail, carriage, drive chain, and baseplate sub-assemblies. This process can be observed in Fig. 3.

After the fabrication, shown in Fig. 4, of all the needed parts was complete, Team 32 began assembling The Independent Wheeler in sub-assemblies. The sub-assemblies include the crane, carriage, monorail, drive chain and baseplate. Figure 5 shows portion of the crane, monorail and carriage sub-assemblies. To complete the assembly Team 32 used handheld screwdrivers, wrenches and sockets.

No special tooling or extensive fabrication knowledge was needed to complete the fabrication and assembly of The Independent Wheeler.


Testing and Results

Team 32 conducted several tests to ensure the chosen design would meet all requirements described in the PDS.  The first test Team 32 conducted was on the weight bearing ability of the crane arm on the track.  This part of the assembly had drawn a fair amount of concern due to the moment force induced by the wheelchair.  Team 32 conducted the test by attaching the wheelchair to the crane arm assembly mounted on the track.  The crane arm was able to support the wheelchair and did not show any signs of deformation.  After determining that the crane arm was able to support the load of the wheelchair, Team 32 ran a test of the entire assembly.  Team 32 loaded the assembly into the van and inspected the entire system.  The purposes of this test were: (1) ensure the track was aligned with the middle of the door opening allowing the wheelchair to have ample room on either side; (2) confirm the entire assembly was able to load/unload and store the wheelchair with only the use of remote controls.  After conducting the test, it was confirmed the wheelchair had ample room on either side of the door opening and the assembly was able to load/unload and store the wheelchair with only the use of remote controls.  After conducting these mentioned tests, it was confirmed that the Independent Wheeler met all design requirements.


The purpose of the Independent Wheeler is to help non ambulatory individuals gain freedom through independence; being able to drive their own car without any outside help. The remote controlled device facilitates the loading, storing, and unloading of the wheelchair in the car and reduces the amount of user input for this daily task.  Using the results of the conducted tests, it has been determined that the products design and features meet this purpose and helps solve the problem of independence for non ambulatory individuals.  Team 32 has shown their testing results to Roy Tuscany, CEO and founder of The High Fives Foundation, and he is very impressed with the prototype.  He has asked Team 32 to donate the apparatus to The High Fives Foundation so it can be installed in a rehabilitating athletes car.





Meet the Team


Adam Nelson

Adam is a senior Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Nevada, Reno and is originally from Petaluma, Ca. After graduation in May 2018, he plans to pursue a Masters of Business Administration with an emphasis in renewable energy at UNR the following fall. During Adam’s academic career he has improved his problem solving and critical thinking through course work and group projects. Aside from school and work, Adam is most proud of his 2015 Fantasy Football title he obtained while being a full-time student at UNR. Over summer Adam had an Industrial & Process Engineering internship at the Barnes and Noble distribution center in Reno, NV where he improved and redesign already existing processes to increase efficiency.

Connor Rock

Connor Rock is a Senior Mechanical engineering student at the University of Nevada, Reno. He is expected to graduate with his Bachelors in 2018, and continue to pursue his Masters with a specialty in Fluid Flow and Heat Transfer.  Originally from Roseville, California, he has enjoyed the multitude of outdoor activities in the greater Reno area.  Connor has developed his problem-solving abilities, technical analysis skills, and leadership traits through his career as an engineering student and as Vice President of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity.   Outside of school, Connor is most proud of his accomplishments as a youth rugby coach.  He lead the youth team to a Northern California Championship. Connor plans to utilize the knowledge gained from his degrees to go into the HVAC/construction field and eventually obtain his PE license.


Edward Garbolino Mojica

Born and raised in Roseville, California, Edward came to Nevada to pursue his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. A senior in his undergraduate education, Edward has taken numerous statics and mechanics classes including various bridge projects and mechanics experiments. Outside of school, Edward works as a ski patroller for a resort in Tahoe and volunteers for various outdoor events as a medic. Edward plans to graduate in the spring of 2018 and after, Edward hopes to join the California Highway Patrol and put his engineering skills to use on the Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT).




Bertille Dupont        

Bertille is a Senior in Mechanical Engineering minoring in Mathematics at the University of Nevada, Reno. Coming from France after High School, she started her bachelor at Lamar University, Texas while playing golf for the women’s golf team. After two years, she transferred to Nevada and became All-American Scholar and Mountain West Scholar Athlete while staying on the Dean’s List each semester. Bertille is a PASS leader for ME310, and she just started an undergraduate research project (the most challenging engineering project in her career) on a prosthesis design and object recognition based grasping of a 3D printed anthropomorphic artificial hand. The project requires the implementation of her problem solving skills (use of computer program, mechanical design, and critical thinking) acquired through the numerous classes she has taken. After graduation, Bertille plans on going to graduate school in Canada to get a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering and work later on with paralympic athletes.


Bjoern Oberth

Bjoern Oberth is a senior Mechanical Engineering student at UNR with a minor in Unmanned Autonomous Systems. Bjoern grew up in the rural outskirts of Lincoln California and attended Sierra College in Rocklin before transferring into UNR. Bjoern developed a strong interest in the aerospace industry after landing an internship at Valley Tech Systems, a small aerospace firm in Reno. At the company, he has gained a wealth of experience in design, machining, and welding. Last summer the company put Bjoern in charge of designing a thrust stand (device to measuring rocket motor thrust). The project expanded into the most challenging engineering project he has ever been involved in. Following the engineering process from system requirements all the way through to completion was a big learning experience. Once graduated, Bjoern hopes to stay in Reno and if possible, stay in the aerospace industry.


Nicolo Monforte

Nico Monforte is a senior Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Nevada, Reno. Nico was born and raised in the mountains of Olympic Valley, California. Nico was an accomplished athlete growing up and spent two years on the National Ski Team before attending UNR. Nico was the captain of the UNR Ski Team from 2014-2017 and raced his way to three All American honors and the 2017 National Skicross title. While studying engineering Nico has improved upon his design skills, developed his public speaking and learned how to accomplish tasks in dynamic environments. Nico is planning on attending graduate school at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he will pursue a Masters of Business Administration with a focus in renewable energy. After graduation Nico plans on taking time to travel before pursuing a full time career.









Roy Tuscany & The High Fives Foundation, The InNEVation Center, Sophie Coudurier, Matthew J. Dutcher