July 15, 2021

‘It’s a realistic experience’




At NDSU you can learn as you help others.

That was the goal of an extraordinary senior design by recent NDSU graduates Krystal Jamison, Ashley Jacobson, Amber Younggren and Sonny Bawi.

A friend of theirs had complaints about her wheelchair – it didn’t match her body shape, the design wasn’t right for her active lifestyle and it cost about $20,000.

So the mechanical engineering majors went to work to design a new and very improved model.

“With this chair that we built for her, it’s customized to her physical dimensions, her daily use and needs and cost around $2,000,” Jamison said. “The best part is that our friend got a say in the design of her wheelchair; it’s much stronger and resistant to wear than her old wheelchair, and she did not have to pay anything for this chair.”

That’s because the Department of Mechanical Engineering not only approved the senior project, it agreed to fund it. Faculty adviser Ali Amiri, assistant professor of practice, enthusiastically offered his support.

The students improved the stiffness of the chair’s back support, moved the chair’s wheels for better stability and put the footplate in a more comfortable position. “Additionally, the frame design does not prevent the frame from deforming when dropped or impacted, which has happened many times,” said Jamison, who is originally from St. Paul, Minnesota. “We fixed all of these design flaws in hopes of making the best wheelchair for her needs and lifestyle, while also learning as much as we possibly could through the design and manufacturing process.”

The project was a great hands-on learning effort for everyone involved.

“I like it because it was a realistic experience,” said Bawi, who is from Baghdad, Iraq, and plans to design another wheelchair for his brother-in-law. “The process we went through was really close to the actual process in industry.”

“Engineers are problem solvers,” said Younggren, who is from Bemidji, Minnesota, and the daughter of two NDSU alumni. “This is great practice to what we will be doing in the future.”

Jamison said, “It has been terrific working with teammates and a mentor who are all excited and dedicated to this project.”

Not all engineers get this type of experience, demonstrating how well NDSU prepares students for their careers.

“I can pull many aspects of this project into my career, such as teamwork and the creative process. I also value having the experience of working to directly benefit someone who needs the help,” said Jacobson, who is from Burnsville, Minnesota.

“I would definitely recommend NDSU for any prospective engineering student,” Jamison said. “There are some really great professors at NDSU, Dr. Amiri being one of them, who are always willing to help students and encourage them to grow and do their best.”

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