More road trips for wheelchairs

By Faculty of Engineering, May 10, 2006

     The Liberty Motor Company representatives visited McMaster to present a cheque for $3,500 to the mechanical engineering student team who created the winning axle design for a wheelchair accessible van. Photo credit: Martin Wissenz
Transporting a wheelchair just became a bit easier thanks to four McMaster engineering design students.

The team of Matthew Woodruff, Matt Doherty, Geoff Hoover, and Kristen Whitney won an engineering design competition to redesign the rear-axle assembly of a Honda Odyssey van to accommodate a wheelchair ramp conversion.

They were one of 26 teams in the fourth-year engineering course at McMaster that submitted proposals for the competition. Three teams were selected as finalists and worked directly with The Liberty Motor Company of Oakville, Ontario to further develop their concepts.

The Liberty Motor Company, sponsors of the competition, presented the winning team with a cheque for $3,500 at a special reception yesterday. The company plans to incorporate the winning design into its line of products and services.

"There are certain vans in which we can currently install our wheelchair ramp conversion," said Simon Jones, president of The Liberty Motor Company. "Thanks to the students in this competition, those needing to transport people with wheelchairs will soon have another option in the vans available to them."

The Liberty Motor Company provides low-floor, rear-entry wheelchair accessible vans and van modifications for people with disabilities and for wheelchair taxi, paratransit, and other non-emergency applications in both Canada and the United States. It currently installs wheelchair accessible conversions into the Ford Windstar, Ford Freestar and Dodge Caravan minivans.

"We never cease to be amazed by the ingenuity of our students," said Samir Ziada, chair of the department of mechanical engineering at McMaster. "These types of competitions provide an opportunity for them to apply their studies to a real-world application, gain experience and make a meaningful contribution."