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A Captain's Chair for Kylie

December 2, 2009 — University of Wyoming mechanical engineering students have designed a captain's chair that meets the unique needs of 15-year-old Kylie Porter of Burns, who has spastic quadriplegia.

Currently there are no crash-tested vehicle seats that have been modified for use by someone with limitations consistent with those of Kylie, and there are no wheelchair tie-downs rated for accidents over 30 mph.

Kylie's parents, Doug and Chele Porter, asked the Wyoming Institute for Disabilities (WIND) about obtaining a chair to fit into their 1996 Ford van. WIND recommended they contact the UW College of Engineering and Applied Science to design the chair.

UW senior students Tarn Bohnet and Jason Mascarenas of Laramie and Alexandra Peterson, Windsor, Colo., designed a modified captain's chair for their senior design project. A head/neck support was added to the seat using the existing headrest attachments that will hold Kylie's head in a vertical position to substitute for the muscle tension that she lacks in her neck.

The students added lateral supports to the seat so that she will not fall to either side of the chair, substituting for her lack of trunk support. A 4-point seat belt was used in place of the traditional 3-point seat belt and is mounted to the floor of the vehicle. The captain's chair can also be installed in full-size vans made by companies other than Ford, the UW students say.

"We are very excited about the design and have heard of other families that are waiting for this type of help," says Chele Porter. "This is very marketable and a much needed improvement for Kylie." She says the disease causes spastic muscle movements and little to no trunk support being supplied by Kylie. As a result, she must use a power wheelchair for mobility.

The project was a requirement for the UW students to graduate and a full presentation of the design and modification process will be presented Thursday, Dec. 3, at 11 a.m. at the UW Conference Center.

"Helping someone in the community while working on a real-life problem was important for the team," Peterson says. The students spent more than 370 hours working on the design. WIND in the UW College of Health Sciences funded the seats, and metal was donated by High Country Fabrication in Casper.

Doug, Chele, Kylie and Eylisch Porter with Kylie's modified captain's chair designed by University of Wyoming mechanical engineering students.

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