Streamlined transport system a winner for athletes


Getting to games these days is a whole lot easier for the athletes playing in the Adaptive Sports Program of Ohio (ASPO), thanks to some of the talented and persistent students on our Engineering Service Design Team.

The challenge for the engineers?

To design and build a portable storage device to organize and transport wheelchairs for the ASPO team members.

Wheel cart

Pictured with the finished wheel cart are an athlete and Brett Followay of ASPO, along with student engineers, from left, Amanda O'Reilly, Bailey Chaplin, Brandon Powell and Peter Miller.


The athletes were transporting their wheelchairs in a cargo trailer, with the wheels removed and piled together so that all the equipment would fit in the space. The system was time consuming and often frustrating as athletes and staff worked to match the right wheels to the right chairs at games and back home again.

“Our design needed to allow each wheel to be accessed at any time, and the design also had to fit the space limitations in the trailer,” says Amanda O’Reilly, a mechanical engineering major who led the team working with ASPO over the course of fall semester.

Wheel Cart assembly

Early in the process, Katie Howell and Bailey Chaplin are seen here working to assemble the wheel cart.

“We considered a variety of designs, finally settling on a rack built on a wagon base,” explains O’Reilly. “The staggered hexagon slots saved space and provided better support for the narrow wheelchair wheels. When a standard utility wagon didn't provide the light-weight build and dimensions we were looking for, we welded our own frame to ride on the wheels and support the rack, with the support of the amazing staff in the College of Engineering machine shop.”

The Engineering Service Design Team at UA is actually an umbrella organization, with members dividing into teams to serve the needs of nonprofit organizations that come forward with project requests. The teams have recently worked on projects for Akron Rotary Camp, Summit County Historical Society and Mac Love, among others.

“One of the biggest challenges for our team, and part of what makes us special, is that we do not ask the organizations we serve to pay anything,” says O’Reilly. “We fund our projects through fundraisers. Occasionally, some money is provided by the nonprofit.”

And sometimes, a vendor provides assistance.

“An Akron sandblasting and powder coating company helped us put the final touch, a smooth black coat, on the wheel cart,” says O’Reilly. “Because of the company’s generosity, our team only paid its cost, rather than standard pricing.”

On the team with O’Reilly were Bailey Chaplin, Brandon Powell and Peter Miller, mechanical engineering; and Katie Howell, Alena Veigl and Jenna McNutt, biomedical engineering.

ASPO group photo

Ready to take the court are ASPO basketball players, along with student engineers, from left, Brandon Powell, Amanda O'Reilly, Bailey Chaplin and Peter Miller.


“We were in need of a way to move a large amount of wheels for our adaptive sports equipment efficiently and quickly,” notes Lisa Followay, executive director of ASPO, headquartered in Wooster. “The team was eager to accept the challenge, and not only created a feasible design, but fabricated a prototype that could be used by our staff immediately. We were thrilled to receive the wheel cart and meet each of the students involved in the project. They created a real solution to a problem we deal with on a regular basis. We value our partnership with the engineering team and have more projects to seek their design expertise on.”

And when they delivered the completed wheel cart, the UA team members got an unexpected reward.

“The athletes and staff were so excited to see the wheel cart,” says O’Reilly. “They told us they couldn't wait till the first time they could use it. We also got to try our skills at wheelchair basketball — it's much harder to play than it looks. Try dribbling a ball while wheeling yourself in a straight line down the court!”