Rockin’ Ride

Designers: Kelly Calabrese, Michael Cook, Neil Gallagher, Caitlin Guenther

Client Coordinators: Melanie Oujua, Nancy Hoopingarner, Stephen Dovenitz

Supervising Professor: Larry Bohs

Figure 1. The Rockin’ Ride

Figure 1. The Rockin’ Ride


The goal of this project was to construct a device to give a class of high school students with disabilities a fun ride involving motion outside their wheelchairs.  The Rockin’ Ride includes a harnessed, padded chair mounted to a two-part platform. The top part of the platform has metal grooves that rest on wheels attached to the bottom part of the platform. The top platform is driven with a motor and crankshaft mechanism to move the student back and forth laterally. The intensity of the ride is controlled using a switch and potentiometer by a supervising adult. The Rockin’ Ride provides a unique recreational activity for the students.


The classroom teacher commented, “Not only have you given my students a new sensory experience, but you have enhanced their opportunity to make a new independent choice during sensory activity times.  The addition of the Rockin’ Ride to the Multiple Handicap class here at Hillside High School was a huge success… the administration is impressed, the parents are ecstatic, and the students love to have something that they are aware is especially for them.”



The Rockin’ Ride (Figure 1) consists of a top and bottom platform, wheels and tracks, motor and crankshaft mechanism, circuit and controller, and a chair with harness.

The top and bottom platforms are made from 2×6” lumber, with a blonde hardwood plyboard for the top platform surface. The bottom base is raised 4-1/2’’ off the ground by wooden feet to accommodate the transfer equipment used by the aids in the classroom. The entire wooden structure is 4’6’’ long, 3’2’’ wide, and 1’7” high. A modified Rifton bath chair is attached to the top of the platform. Its steel frame is covered in insulation, foam wrapped in vinyl, with velcro attachments to allow different pillows and cushions to be added. The upper platform moves on the lower base via a wheel and track system. Four 3” polypropylene caster wheels mount rigidly to the lower frame, rolling in flat tracks cut into the long sides of the platform. Square U-shaped aluminum shafts attach into the cuts for the track to provide a flat rolling surface, as well as to limit the side-to-side motion of the wheels.

A ¼ HP, 42 RPM DC gear motor with a 4” offset shaft drives the platform’s motion.  The offset shaft attaches to a linking rod, a ⅝” threaded steel rod 36” in length with ball and socket joints on either end. At the platform end, the stud of the ball and socket joint attaches to a 9” long piece of 1” square aluminum tubing, which is bolted to the top platform by four ¼” bolts.

Figure 2.  Client on the Rockin’Ride with classroom teacher.

Figure 2. Client on the Rockin’Ride with classroom teacher.

The motor is controlled by a commercial motor speed control, which provides pulse-modulated 90V DC for the motor.  Speed and on/off control are controlled by the classroom teacher using a custom control box (shown in Figure 2), which contains a potentiometer for speed variation and a SPST power switch.  Cost of parts for the project is $960.

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