Oven Helper

Designers:  Roni Prucz, Justin Brower, and William Hong
Client Coordinator:  Annette Lauber, North Carolina Assistive Technology Project
Supervising Professor:  Larry Bohs

Our client loves to cook, but she has difficulty using large baking and casserole dishes because she has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. The oven helper assists her with the lifting and lowering of heavy pans into and out of an oven.  The device utilizes a gas spring mechanism to help her move pans between the stovetop and middle oven rack.  Pans are vertically displaced through single-hand pushing or pulling actions. The device is mobile, easy to operate, and suitable for use by individuals with back pain or in wheelchairs.

How this project helped

Providing our client with this device allows her to cook items previously not possible.  Besides enhancing self-reliance, the device allows her to cook larger portions of food for storing or serving to guests, and increases the diversity of dishes that can be made, such as large casseroles. Our client commented: “The oven helper can help me in so many ways in the kitchen.  It feels as though it was made to be there.  I could not be happier with the result.”

The Oven Helper (Figure 1) was built by modifying a commercial height-adjustable rolling table. The L-shaped frame was modified to obtain the desired minimum level of 22” and the maximum height of 36”, which corresponded to the client’s middle oven rack and stovetop respectively. After substantial research, a gas spring was chosen as the lifting mechanism. Testing revealed that commercial springs did not possess the proper extension and force, so a custom spring was ordered from Easy Lift Springs (Melbourne, FL), with a stroke of 15”, a compressed length of 18”, and a 21.5 lb force at full extension. This spring also featured a locking system controlled by a Bowden wire.

The spring was mounted inside the square telescoping tubing of the original rolling table, which required careful modification to allow the spring to recess into the tabletop and the release head to sit below the frame of the device.  A small notch was also cut in the frame to accommodate the Bowden Wire.

When the prototype was tested with the client, several problems became apparent.  At full extension, the inner and outer telescoping shafts overlapped by only 1”. The weight of the table thus caused the inner shaft to sag toward the cantilevered end of the table and the client could not lower the device due to the resulting friction between the telescoping shafts.  Additionally, the client could not comfortably reach the top of the table.  These problems were resolved by attaching two linear drawer glides, one inside and one outside the shaft.  Custom clamps secured the external linear glide to the shaft. A padded handle was mounted below the tabletop, with the spring release lever attached for easy operation by the client.

To hold the Oven Helper in place while in use, a soft rubber keyboard wrist pad was affixed horizontally to the lower frame, which provided substantial friction against the opened oven door. Raised lips were added to two sides of the tabletop to prevent dishes from sliding off.

Figures 2 and 3 show the client using the device. Cost of parts for the Oven Helper was about $550.

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