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Senior Design Project Brings Greater Independence to Bowlers with Disabilities

Wednesday, April 27, 2016
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Ready, Aim . . .: Happiness Bag executive director Jodi Moan holds a bowling ball in place as bowler Marlana Simms uses the Incredibowl device's aiming wheel to prepare for her next roll.

Three senior biomedical engineering students have rolled a strike with their device to make bowling more enjoyable for people with disabilities.

Jett Bender, Whitney Strain, and Haley Bowyer developed the Incredibowl, an aluminum bowling ramp that maximizes independence for wheelchair-bound bowlers.

The ramp is supported by five legs for added stability and a revolving wheel permits the bowler to move the ramp from side to side without assistance. Traditional bowling ramps often require an assistant to help the bowler.

Additional design features include three adjustable height levels and a cycloid curve to create maximum acceleration as the ball enters the alley, increasing the likelihood of improved scores.

"Oh my gosh, this thing is sweet!" exclaimed Marlana Simms, a Terre Haute woman who was testing the Incredibowl at a local bowling alley. "Are you guys going to patent this?"

Incredibowl was among 10 hands-on projects completed this academic year by teams of senior biomedical engineering students to demonstrate the skills they learned throughout their collegiate careers. Several of the projects were completed for external clients.

"We wanted to provide the most independence we could for the users," says Bowyer, adding that the ramp design underwent numerous changes throughout the development process.

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Expert Testing: Senior biomedical engineering student Haley Bowyer watches as Brandy Walker, a veteran league bowler, tests the Incredibowl device at a local bowling center.

"It definitely taught us to think outside-the-box for solutions," says Strain, who is also majoring in mechanical engineering.

Jodi Moan, executive director of Happiness Bag, Inc., commissioned the project. The local not-for-profit organization, serving adults and children with disabilities, hosts twice-yearly bowling leagues. Ramps are in frequent use on league nights.

"[The students] are on the right path," Moan says. "I like the independent aspect of their design. We can work with this."

As with most new devices, there's a learning curve associated with the Incredibowl, Bender says. Two bowlers using it during preliminary testing sessions learned quickly how to use the device and showed improvement with each frame.

"It went good once I got used to it," Simms says after finishing several frames. "I'd say they've got a good invention on their hands."

Kay C Dee, interim head of the Department of Biology and Biomedical Engineering, joined faculty colleagues Glen Livesay and Renee Rogge, the Samuel Hulbert Faculty Chair of Biomedical Engineering, in mentoring the student teams in this year's senior biomedical engineering project course.