Helping people inspires engineering students’ project

Posted: April 2, 2015 1:15 p.m.

Student Avery Ottenbreit is the recipient of the electric wheelchair cup holder designed by Engineering students Marco Vargas, Mashari Alsulleman and IB Alayyaf.
Student Avery Ottenbreit is the recipient of the electric wheelchair cup holder designed by Engineering students Marco Vargas, Mashari Alsulleman and IB Alayyaf. (Photo - External Relations)

The need to help people has served as an inspiration for three University of Regina engineering students. The students have unveiled a prototype of an electric wheelchair cup holder. 

“The idea came to us from just witnessing someone in a wheelchair spill a cup of coffee on themselves,” says Marco Vargas, who worked on the project along with fellow students Mashari Alsulleman and IB Alayyaf.

“We were looking for people in wheelchairs to be more independent,” says Alsulleman.

The wheelchair cup holder design was one of dozens of creations on display at the University of Regina’s annual Project Day held recently. It’s an opportunity for fourth year engineering students to show off their creations to the public.

The cup holder is designed for people with upper body limitations. The students worked closely with Avery Ottenbreit, who is in a wheelchair and a member of Astonished!, a non-profit charity located at the University that addresses barriers facing young adults with complex physical disabilities. Ottenbreit worked on this project as a student researcher with the Teaching and Learning Centre at Astonished! She also agreed to be a part of the public presentation that showed off the cup holder.

“This is really good. It means people won’t have to help me,” says Ottenbreit.

“We’re trying to change the point of view that engineers are only trying to help companies and make money. Maximizing profit. Minimizing cost. We also want to show that engineers have hearts. Engineers care about other people.” Student I.B. Alayyaf

The cup holder includes a six-channel control box and a wireless remote control that can adjust to the size of the operator. The holder is designed to fit an average-sized cup or bottle, and the accessory can be removed to improve portability. The aluminum parts used to attach the device were made and donated by Anlin Welding and Steel Fabrication of Regina.

The students hope this prototype will find uses in other places, such as hospital beds.

“We are helping disabled people be independent - because engineering is all about problem solving,” says Alayyaf. “We witnessed a person who had a problem, and we thought about it. Well, we’re the engineers. There’s a problem and there has to be a solution. And we came up with a solution.”

Alayyaf, Vargas and Alsulleman are in their fourth year of Industrial Systems Engineering.

For more information on the programs offered by the U of R Engineering Faculty please visit:
http://www.uregina.ca/engineering/