Cedarville Engineers Use Skills for the Wheelchair-Bound

by Public Relations Office

Cedarville, Ohio—When entering a building on a rainy day, one of the first things you probably do is wipe your shoes. Have you ever considered what it would be like if you were in a wheelchair, unable to wipe the wet and dirty wheels which serve as your feet? A team of Cedarville University mechanical engineering seniors devised a solution to the embarrassing problem of wheelchair grime. For their senior design project last spring, they designed and built a wheelchair wheel cleaner, which could be installed in the entryway floors of buildings or homes to brush dirt from wheels. The wheels for the project began turning when Jay Kinsinger, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, was contacted by the United Cerebral Palsy Association regarding the dirty-wheel problem. Kinsinger dangled the project idea to Jon Brockman, Matt Nealis, Brad Nicol, and Adam Yingling, who all quickly accepted the challenge. The project was even more personal to the team in that Brockman`s sister-in-law is confined to a wheelchair. After roughly 600 hours of work, which included Yingling spending two days in a wheelchair to experience the problem firsthand, the team had a finished product. The device sits concealed underneath the floor by doors until someone wants to use the cleaner. When activated, the doors open, and a brush rotates into contact with the wheelchair wheels. The user then spins his or her wheels to drive the brush to do the actual cleaning. "We viewed the project as a ministry," noted Yingling. "I hope it erases some of the embarrassment people in wheelchairs feel, gives them the same convenience we have when we wipe our shoes, and encourages them to know we`re thinking about them." The device earned more than appreciation. Yingling presented the project at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Old Guard competition in the spring of 2002 and earned third place. Also, the team and their project made the front cover of OhioENGINEER magazine (Volume 62, Issue 3). The wheelchair cleaner is just a prototype, but Yingling hopes it will eventually be refined, patented, and mass-produced. Curious of the public`s interest level in the device, he requests that anyone with comments or marketing/patenting/production tips e-mail him at adamyingling@yahoo.com. Yingling, who now works at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base as an engineer in the flight structures division, shared, "The rigors of Cedarville`s engineering department taught me how to think and instilled solid problem solving skills into me that can be applied to most any situation. More importantly, however, Cedarville is a place where God can really work in your life. God taught me how to love others and how to give of myself." -30-