Rock’n Roller

Designers: Manny Fanarjian, Doug Giannantonio, and Michael Kramarz

Client Coordinators: Nancy Hoopingarner, PT, Lachanda Black

Supervising Professors: Kevin Caves and Richard Goldberg


Jill is a high school student with shaken baby syndrome (SBS) that has resulted in severe cognitive, visual and physical disabilities. She is nonverbal and due to poor muscle coordination she has voluntary control of only her head and right hand.  She enjoys both movement and listening to music but cannot currently perform either of these tasks independently.  Jill spends most of her day sitting in a manual wheelchair that she cannot propel.  While the teachers take Jill on walks as often as possible, they simply do not have enough time to dedicate to her, due to the other special needs students in the classroom that also need their attention.

The goal of the Rock’n Roller is to allow our client to experience motion and music as independently as possible.  The device consists of a motorized platform onto which Jill’s chair is loaded and secured.  The platform gently slides back and forth along a drawer slide track for a distance of 10 inches.  Jill can access a switch adapted MP3 player loaded with 101 of her favorite songs. The MP3 player and the platform motor are controlled by two separate switches, which can be mounted in our client’s reach, using either her head or right hand.  The overall design is able to support a large weight, can be stored in the cramped classroom, and is easily transported by one person.


The device was designed to make our client’s time at school more enjoyable. Our project advisor was “very impressed” with its functionality, our client’s teacher said that she was “extremely excited to use this device with [our client].” During the final delivery of the completed device, Jill repeatedly screamed with joy.  Her classroom teacher reports that this was a rare display from Jill and that she appeared to be extremely happy while using the device.


The Rock’n Roller has three major components.  The platform and base are made from a sheet of 3/4” birch veneer plywood, chosen for its strength and appearance.  The top platform rolls on a set of nine 2 inch castors.  The platform is guided via two, 24 inch full extension drawer slides that also serve to keep the platform in place while transporting it.  The motor is a 12V, 6.5 amp gear motor capable of generating 45 ft-lbs of torque. A custom motor shaft attachment was made and a 3 foot rod connects the motor shaft to the top of the platform.  As the motor turns at 6 rpm, the shaft attachment makes a 10 inch diameter rotation, which the rod translates into 10 inches of linear movement of the top platform.  The motor and shaft attachment are covered with a clear acrylic box to prevent injury but to still allow observation by other students.  Biscuit jointing was used throughout to provide a professional appearance and durable connection.  An Ablenet Powerlink controller enables Jill to control the device operation through switch activation

The platform comes with a 3 foot loading ramp, so that teachers and aides can easily transfer Jill’s wheelchair on and off the platform.  Once in place, the chair is secured using 4 commercially available cargo tie downs connected to each of 4 eyelets bolted to the platform surface.  All materials and attachments methods were engineered with significant factors of safety.

The system employs a switch adapted MP3 player that allows Jill to advance to the next song when she presses a switch.  The MP3 player is connected to amplified speakers attached to custom folding mounts.  These mounts position the speakers in front of Jill so that she can hear her music without disrupting the other students in the class.

The cost to develop the device was $487.

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