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A Community Public Service Capstone Engineering Design Project: A Collapsible Ramp For An Electric Cart/Wheelchair

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2004 Annual Conference


Salt Lake City, Utah

Publication Date

June 20, 2004

Start Date

June 20, 2004

End Date

June 23, 2004



Conference Session

TIME 7: ABET Issues and Capstone Courses

Page Count


Page Numbers

9.16.1 - 9.16.14

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Paper Authors

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Erik Bowman

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Kenneth Siegenthaler

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 3266

A Community Public Service Capstone Engineering Design Project: A Collapsible Ramp for an Electric Cart/Wheelchair

Kenneth E. Siegenthaler and Erik C. Bowman

Department of Astronautics United States Air Force Academy


A capstone engineering design and construction course, required for graduation at the United States Air Force Academy, has often involved community service projects. One such project was the design and construction by students of a collapsible electric cart/wheelchair ramp for a handicapped woman who liked to travel on the airlines. The design constraints required cadets to perform extensive research and development to produce an efficient design using lightweight materials. Some of the constraints included a maximum weight of 70 pounds and a minimum extended length of 11 feet. The ramp had to fold up into a single unit that qualifies as checked baggage on the airlines. The motivational value of a public service project for a handicapped person was a major factor in developing a positive mental attitude by a team of non-science and engineering majors. The program required the student team to meet all of the Department of Defense milestones, including Alternative System Review (ASR), Proposal Submission, Preliminary Design Review (PDR), Critical Design Review (CDR), and Product Acceptance Demonstration (PAD). This paper discusses the challenges and benefits of such community service projects for satisfying the requirements of a capstone design course for non-science and engineering majors.

I. Introduction

Community service projects performed by educational institutions have several advantages. A very worthwhile public service is rendered. The students are made more aware of people in need. The students feel they have done something worthwhile. The person or persons helped feel better about society’s caring for people in need. Such a project increases the interaction of the educational institution with the “real world”. The students apply their textbook learning to real-world problems and realize that solving real problems is not as easy as punching numbers into a calculator. This paper discusses the

“Proceedings of the 2004 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright 2004, American Society for Engineering Education”

Bowman, E., & Siegenthaler, K. (2004, June), A Community Public Service Capstone Engineering Design Project: A Collapsible Ramp For An Electric Cart/Wheelchair Paper presented at 2004 Annual Conference, Salt Lake City, Utah.

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