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BYU Capstone team develops portable assisted person lift for the National Ability Center

A team of six BYU Mechanical Engineering students partnered with the National Ability Center (NAC) through the BYU Engineering Capstone program to design a portable lift to assist in moving people of varying abilities from a wheelchair to adapted sporting equipment. The NAC is a nonprofit located in Park City, UT that aims to empower individuals of different abilities to participate in a variety of recreational activities such as skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing and more.

Traditionally, individuals who are unable to lift themselves from a wheelchair to recreational equipment have been lifted manually by NAC volunteers. This can often create an uncomfortable and strenuous situation for both participant and volunteer. To address this issue, the team designed an assisted person lift they named the “Classic Swingset.”

The lift will be operated by one volunteer to move participants from their wheelchair to a piece of adapted sporting equipment, as shown above.

Knowing that the Classic Swingset would be used in a variety of different terrains, the team addressed the issues of transferability, balance and stability in their design. Like a common playground swing set, the Classic Swingset is made up of two A-frames on the sides. It also has a strut channel across the top, equipped with a sliding trolley. The legs of the A-frame are telescoping, allowing the Classic Swingset to be assembled and stabilized across a variety of uneven terrains. A low-cost design utilizes a pulley system which enables one volunteer to lift a participant. However, the pulley system could be replaced with another hoist system, such as an electric winch to eliminate the physical exertion during the lift process for the volunteer.

The final design features telescoping A-frame legs, which provide stability on uneven terrains, as well as a sliding trolley across the top strut channel.

“Until now, the task of moving individuals with physical disabilities from wheelchairs to the modified equipment was difficult and often dangerous,” said Jeff Niven, team coach and BYU Mechanical Engineering adjunct professor. “This inexpensive and light-weight device now enables two people to easily and safely transfer a person from their wheelchair to and from any number of types of sporting equipment. It is foldable and fits into a hand-carried duffel bag for easy transport and storage.” 

For optimum transferability, the design folds down to fit into a carrying case.

In addition to the final product, the team has provided the NAC with an owner’s manual outlining product procedures for assembly and operation, allowing the NAC to develop and implement this device on a greater scale. It is estimated that this product will help up to 230 participants each year, in addition to participants in NAC special events. The NAC has not yet implemented product use in its programs due to COVID-19, but plans to integrate the product into the later summer and winter programs, according to ski and snowboard program manager Brian Castillo.