Mechanical engineers help one of their own

December 18, 2006

Mechanical engineering students (from left to right) Ben Gregoire, Adam Peterson, B.J. Hanson and Nicole Hansen tackled a project that would benefit one of their very own by designing a wheelchair lift system. (Not pictured are group members Rachel Korth and Ryan McKillips.)

PLATTEVILLE - Completed during their final semester in each respective engineering program at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville are the senior design projects where teams of students work with a company or individual on a comprehensive project. Intended to offer students experience in project management, teamwork, written reports, presentations and computer aided design work, these projects are the final step to preparation for entering their careers following graduation.

During the fall 2006 semester at UWP, one particular team of mechanical engineering (ME) students opened their hearts and minds to tackling a challenge that would benefit one of their very own. Adam "Pete" Peterson, a graduating ME student, sustained severe injuries in an accident in 2006 which left him paralyzed from the chest down. He will graduate from UWP this fall, but life will be one step easier thanks to his team members B.J. Hanson, Ryan McKillips, Ben Gregoire, Rachel Korth and Nicole Hansen.

These dedicated individuals designed an automatic wheelchair lift for Peterson to use in his 2004 Chevrolet Colorado. Prior to the project's initiation, Peterson lowered the suspension, installed hand controls and had lower profile tires put on the vehicle.

"Over three quarters of our semester has been spent on research, design work, testing and modeling to develop the best design for this project. We also plan to fabricate the product and implement it whereas most times the projects are only theoretical modeling," said Peterson.

"Adam currently pulls his wheelchair manually into and out of the truck which is both awkward and painful. We designed a system to make this process easier," said McKillips.

"The overhead crane system consists of a spring loaded trolley from which a winch unwinds. A cable drops which is connected to the wheelchair. By triggering a reverse winch switch, the wheelchair is then pulled up and into the truck," explained Hanson.

Added Korth, "One of the best things about our design is that it is removable and requires minimal vehicle modifications. By having Adam as one of our group members, we were able to incorporate his ideas and desires immediately into the design."

"Getting feedback directly from Adam allowed for quicker idea return and easier project coordination instead of putting the project on hold while waiting to hear back from a company," agreed Hansen.

Along the way, the students received support from everyone who became involved in the project. "All the ME faculty were more than willing to help generate ideas which would push the project forward," said Hanson.

Added Korth, "Our class instructor and ME professor, Prathivadi Ravikumar, was there every step of the way offering guidance and leading us through the design process from beginning to end."

"It's easy to get excited about such a personal project, especially when you know it's going to a good cause and giving back directly to one of your fellow peers," said Gregoire.

Summarized Peterson, "Everyone graduating has a choice as to which senior design project they work on. The members of this team signed up because they wanted to help me. I'm extremely grateful and sincerely appreciative of their efforts and support to make a difference in my life."

The engineering department, dean's office for the College of Engineering, Mathematics and Science, as well as Peterson's fundraising accounts from hometown support, provided funding for this project.

Peterson, Hanson, McKillips, Gregoire and Korth are mechanical engineering majors. Hansen is a mechanical engineering major with a minor in Spanish. Peterson is the son of Ken and Marian Peterson of Stockholm. Hanson is the son of Al and Patty Hanson of La Crosse. McKillips is the husband of Jody McKillips of Beloit. Gregoire is the son of Pierre and Christine Gregoire of Aurora, Ill. Korth is the daughter of Pete and Terry Korth of Stockton, Ill. Hansen is the daughter of Joseph E. and Therese M. Hansen of Crivitz. All the students will graduate from UWP in December 2006.

Contact: Adam Peterson, UWP student, Prepared by: Rachael Lehr, UWP Public Relations, (608) 342-1194,


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