LSU Engineering Students Complete Beach Wheelchair Project

BATON ROUGE – A new group of LSU engineering students have completed a beach accessible wheelchair for a Plaquemine woman, as part of their Senior Capstone Design project.

“The customer (Cheslyn Simpson) is happy. We involved the community, we raised awareness to the fact that a purely recreational wheelchair is not available to a lot of people. We also got the community involved and hopefully inspire future engineers,” said Daniel Lucas, LSU mechanical engineering major and the team’s project leader.

The nine mechanical and electrical engineering students spent the 2018-2019 academic year devising and creating a new beach accessible wheelchair for Cheslyn Simpson. Simpson was diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia, a degenerative neuro-muscular disorder. Her family takes trips to the beach every year, but it’s not easy using Simpson’s everyday wheelchair in the sand.

The project was first assigned to a previous group of engineering students, during the 2017-2018 school year. They were unable to give the wheelchair to the Simpson family, so the project was given to new group of seniors.

“When we first started the project, we all decided that our goal here was to get Cheslyn a wheelchair more so than to pass a class or get a good grade in it,” said Seth Collins, a mechanical engineering senior. “Just seeing her reaction to actually building the chair, the first time she drove it and the big smile across her face, it was awesome.”

The students designed a three-wheel beach accessible wheelchair that is made up of larger wheels than the previous design. It also includes a cooler, Bluetooth music player, cup holder, two locations for umbrellas, as well as head lights and under glow lights. Many of the items needed to complete the wheelchair were donated.

“We received about $3,000 from the LSU Foundation, that was donated to last year’s project group and we were able to double that from our GoFundMe account. We also had a number of local businesses that donated materials, including the welding and frame. The motors were donated from an international company located in New Zealand. The controls were also donated,” said Lucas. “We reached out to these companies, looking to buy the products with our money, and then when they heard our story and learned this was a student project, these companies wanted to buy into it and helped and they offered to send us the items we needed.”

The nine-member team is made up of senior LSU students, who will graduate in May:

Seth Collins – mechanical engineering major, Prairieville, La.
Kevin Durr – mechanical engineering major, Mandeville, La.
Grace Hebert – mechanical engineering major, Mandeville, La.
Brant Hoover – electrical engineering major, Slidell, La.
Daniel Lucas – mechanical engineering major, Houston, Texas
Anthony Phan – electrical engineering major, New Orleans, La.
Emmanuel Rodriguez – electrical engineering major, St. Rose, La.
Ryan Schroeder – mechanical engineering major, Toledo, Ohio
Carlos Villao – electrical engineering major, Ecuador

Simpson’s beach wheelchair dream was made a reality after she wrote an essay in 2017. During a speech therapy session at the LSU Speech, Language, Hearing Clinic, her therapists suggested she write an essay, asking for help from engineering students through their Senior Capstone Design program. The group involved Simpson in the design process, she picked out the colors and the upholstery for her chair.

“I think it’s awesome, it’s unbelievable. It’s done and I'm excited for everyone who helped participate, sponsored the project and donated to it,” said Shannon Simpson, Cheslyn’s mom.

“The capstone programs within LSU Engineering are the final proving ground for our soon-to-be graduates. The support provided to the capstone initiatives allows the students to showcase their talents and skills to the community through real-world projects like this new beach-accessible wheelchair,” said Judy Wornat, dean of the College of Engineering.

The family already has trips planned to the beach starting next month and throughout the summer.
Media Note:

The Simpson family will receive the wheelchair from the LSU students on Tuesday, April 30,at 12:30 p.m. The exchange is open to the media, taking place at Patrick F. Taylor Hall, off Engineering Lane near S. Quad Drive.
Additional Links:
March 2018 Story: LSU Students Creating Beach Accessible Wheelchair to Help Plaquemine Woman 

LSU Foundation:

LSU Capstone Design Program: 




Contact Rachel Holland
LSU Strategic Communications 
Joshua Duplechain

College of Engineering