Challenge:  Kayak Balance Assist
Challenger:  Team River Runner Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky
University Partner:  University of Cincinnati
Student Team:  Erin Flaig, Caroline Harrison, Erin Heilman, Grace Lillie, and Jordan Perrin
Faculty Advisor:  Dr. Tom Huston
QL+ Program Manager: Amber Humphrey

Project Summary:

Our Challenger is Team River Runner Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky. Team River Runner is a national non-profit organization that provides social and physical activities to veterans and active duty service members through kayaking and boating. Since they provide these services as trips to veterans and service members with a variety of physical and mental disabilities, there are challenges with balance when entering and exiting the kayaks and boats.

To accommodate Team River Runner needs, a device was designed utilizing 80/20 aluminum extrusions, corresponding fasteners, and a variety of support handles and swing attachments. 80/20 aluminum extrusion comes in a variety of sizes and has numerous possible corresponding attachments. This allows the device to be modular and easy to modify, repair, and replace parts. Aluminum extrusion is also corrosion-resistant, so the device will not rust or degrade when being used on the riverbanks, beaches, poolsides, and docks. The use of the modular extrusions and fasteners allows for the device to be cost-effective and easily attainable if other regions of Team River Runner have a need or desire to purchase and build one of these devices.
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The device was originally designed to be a four feet tall and wide and six feet long rectangular structure. There is a center bar with stability handles and attachments to assist the user with lifting and lowering themselves. The sidewalls of the rectangle have aluminum extrusions evenly spaced vertically to provide a ladder-like hand support system to provide the user with extra handholds. The top bars on the device can be removed to assist with transport. The four-foot width accommodates all commercially available kayak widths, so all kayaks owned or rented by Team River Runner will be compatible with the device. The height of the device has been updated after the development of the first prototype to have an extra six inches added on. This will make it more comfortable for the user to interact with the attachments and handles.

Since Team River Runner operates on various shores and banks, leveling feet with rubber gripped bottoms are attached at each of the four bottom corners. They are screw attachments that can be raised or lowered almost 4” individually allowing the device to be used on different slopes and terrains.
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The first portion of the final design has been constructed, and several adjustments to the original design have made to make it easier to assemble and more stable. Unfortunately, the university closed, and all students were sent home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The team members were no longer able to access the device and were scattered up to 4.5 hours away from Cincinnati. The project has now been transitioned to a paper project with the intent to pass off to volunteers or younger engineering students in the area. The team has created an instruction manual for set up, test guidelines, and future design changes based on the prototype. These will assist future students in finishing the project. Based on the first prototype, the device will not need extensive future design work, and it is showing promise to accommodate all of Team River Runner’s needs. The team looks forward to hopefully seeing it in action in the future.