Andrew Pineda, left, and Connor Dullea work on their wheelchair sweeper in the University of Colorado s Engineering Integrated Teaching & Learning Laboratory on Thursday. The sweeper would be attached to a wheelchair to allow for a disabled person to clean floors.

Students in the University of Colorado engineering class, First Year Projects, have enough to worry about with finals coming up, but for some students their final is about more than just a grade.

As more than 30 students rush to make the last few tweaks to their final projects this week, they’re not just concerned about what their professor thinks. They’re looking to impress a different kind of audience.

All semester these students have been working with community members with disabilities, creating projects that will help improve their mobility and independence at home.

“These students are put into teams and challenged to design and build projects unique to the needs of community members,” said Melinda Piket-May, associate professor of engineering. “They really get thrown right in and are expected to make a functional project that our clients can actually use.”

The class was divided into seven teams and next week the students will present the projects to their clients, who have expressed a need through Imagine!, a local non-profit that provides support to people with disabilities.

The projects include a universal remote, a compact desk, a mobile laundry basket, a suspended scale, a tray and broom attachment for wheelchairs and a rotating shelf.

Teammates Trevor Sweet, Zadoc Watson, Andrew Onorato, Aaron Payne and Devin Mackenzie said when they decided to attempt a rotating storage unit back in September they weren’t sure they could pull it off. But three months of planning and building later and their project is finally functional.

“We’re just putting the finishing touches on it now, but I think we’re all really happy with how it turned out,” Onorato said. “There were a lot of adjustments along the way, but we’re expecting a good reaction when we give it to our client next week.”

The unit contains eight plastic tubs that rotate with the push of a button. This will allow their client, who is in a wheel chair, to place everyday items in the containers and move them to a level where he can best reach them.

The students said they spent a lot of time rolling around in desk chairs, simulating a wheelchair and trying to determine the best positioning and placement for the tubs and the button.

Two other teams are working on projects for Anthony Plumley, a Longmont resident in a wheelchair who has limited mobility. He said he wants to contribute more to household chores, often done by his full-time caretaker.

Plumley, 38, will receive a specially designed laundry basket on wheels and a broom attachment for his wheelchair that will allow him to do laundry and clean the floors without assistance.

“It will be easier for me with the help,” Plumley said. “It’s good and the more help I get it’s better for me.”

The laundry basket will have wheels and an arm that attaches to Plumley’s wheelchair. It also has a lever that raises a Plexiglass platform that pushes clothes higher in the basket for better access, since Plumley cannot reach clothes at the bottom. The platform can also drop on one end, sending clothing into the washer or dryer with only a light push.

Glenda Alvarenga and four other students are adding Swiffer Sweeper brushes to the end of a wooden attachment that slides onto the back of Plumley’s wheelchair. He will need help adding and removing the attachment from the chair but will be able to move his chair around a room as the broom sweeps behind him.

“It only cost us $100 to make the whole thing,” Alvarenga said. “We’re really pleased with the result and I think Anthony will be too.”

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