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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

New Home Elevator Provides an Option for Elderly, Disabled

May 1, 2002

New Home Elevator Provides an Option for Elderly, Disabled

Model to cost thousands less than available products

Troy, N.Y. — A home elevator can cost upward of $20,000, which is a steep price for the disabled or elderly who wish to maintain their independence.

A group of college students in Troy, N.Y., has built a solution: a home elevator that will cost thousands less than what is currently on the market.

This spring, 23 students from mechanical, materials, electrical, and industrial engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have completed a working full-scale, two-story version (18 ft. high) of the in-home elevator. The project, built in the O.T. Swanson Multidisciplinary Design Laboratory’s (MDL) Fabrication and Prototyping Area, is sponsored by United Technologies Corporation (UTC).

Students explored a new motor design and different materials for the door and walls to keep the costs low. Casey Kruger ’02 and John Hobden ’02, both mechanical engineering majors, have high hopes for the project. “We’ll have some recommendations to make to UTC,” said Hobden. “We’re pretty confident with our model,” Kruger added.

Hector Hurtado ’02, an electric power engineering major from Ecuador, is grateful for the experience he received while working on the project. “The hands-on experience taught me to think through problems I didn’t have to worry about in class. Also, since English is not my first language, I was able to learn new engineering terms by working with students in other areas of engineering,” he said.

The O.T. Swanson MDL, which was completed in 2000, simulates the work environment that graduates can expect to find as they begin their careers. The students, from different disciplines and schools within Rensselaer, work together in teams to take a project from initial design to manufacturing. Industry sponsors provide support and guidance throughout the project.

The team-oriented and industry-like atmosphere the MDL provides is “a win-win situation for the students and industry sponsors,” said Robin Miller, UTC’s representative. UTC is so impressed with their experience that they will sponsor another project next year.

The very real need for many of the products produced in the MDL is as important to students as the practical experience they gain, noted Mark Steiner, director of the MDL. Other O.T. Swanson MDL projects have included a golf cart retrofit and a water exercise device to help the disabled participate in physical activity. “These projects give the students a chance to do something important, something they get excited about,” said Steiner.

Contact: Bruce Adams
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About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America’s first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and more than 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration.