Senior Design Stories: Robotic Mobility Walker

Senior Design is a year-long process where the engineering students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom and work as a team to solve real-world problems for their capstone projects. They work for two semesters and in the spring will display their projects at the Senior Design Day, which would typically occur at the NIU Convocation Center. In light of the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, the event will be held virtually on Friday, May 8 from 1-4 p.m. at

Team 8 is setting out to increase the quality of life for Kelly, a high school student with dystonic cerebral palsy, a movement disorder. The team is working on a mobility walker that would allow Kelly to travel over uneven terrain, and travel up a ramp. It will be a motorized device that will be air-travel ready, so it will be lightweight with traction control and a proximity sensor that will stop the device if it gets too close to another object.

The team, consisting of Colin Frank, Kyle Matthews, Joshua Keene, and Jayce Breggren will meet weekly through the spring of 2020 to present updates on the project. The goal is to develop two prototypes and a final product. Ideally, the team hopes the final product would be marketable.

In spite of the challenges of e-learning during the stay-at-home order, the team has persevered to come up with a solution for Kelly. Although building a prototype was not required for the course, the team is using three of their own personal 3D printers to make parts, consistently working with Erin Crawford a student from the College of Visual and Performing Arts, who illustrated the prototype, and continued communicating through Microsoft Teams to make adjustments to the project.

“We are well off more than most teams because we had a bulk of the project built in December,” said Keene. “The frame is completely built, but the quarantine prevented us from making some upgrades we wanted to do.”

From the beginning, the team has met weekly, discussing their plans with Kelly and her father. They took into consideration aspects such as Kelly’s rate of growth, how to find a safe and reliable power source, traction control and an attractive appearance.

Rendering of the stair detection safety feature on the front wheels, shows rays coming out from just above the two front wheels.
Rendering of the stair detection safety feature.

Photos from October 2019:


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