News Releases

February 26, 2010
For Immediate Release
For additional information: 
Barbara Kerr, APR
Executive Director of
Communications and Marketing

Telephone: 360-992-2921


Backpack to the Future 

On Monday, March 8, Clark College engineering students 
will use their expertise to create storage devices for students 
in wheelchairs

VANCOUVER, Wash. – Think about the many items that today’s students must carry to class in their backpacks.  Now think about the challenges facing students in wheelchairs as they carry and retrieve those same items.  On Monday, March 8, Clark College engineering students will try to find a better way to store those items.  It’s classroom learning with a real world application.

Students in four engineering classes (introduction to design, introduction to engineering, engineering statics, and engineering dynamics) will take part in the competition, which will be held in the Gaiser Student Center.  Judging times will be 9:00-9:50 a.m., 10:00-10:50 a.m., 11:00-11:50 a.m., and 1:00-1:50 p.m.  Clark College is located at 1933 Fort Vancouver Way.  Driving directions and parking maps are available at

The judges will include a non-engineering student who uses a wheelchair, Clark’s Disability Support Services Manager (or a representative), and an engineering professor. 

Vancouver, Wash. Mayor Tim Leavitt recently declared Feb. 14-20, 2010 as National Engineering Week in the city.  In the proclamation, Leavitt noted that engineers encourage “young math and science students to realize the practical power of their knowledge” and that the region will “look more than ever to engineers and their knowledge and skills to meet the challenges of the future.”

About the competition

Many students who use a wheelchair store books, papers, notebooks, calculators and more in a backpack which is hung on the back of the chair. This works well because it allows a student to carry all their belongings, does not add to the width of the wheelchair as it goes through doors, and doesn’t interfere with the student’s normal activities.  However, the student often cannot reach into the backpack without help. They generally must ask someone to place the backpack on their lap or ask for assistance in getting an item out of the backpack or putting it back. 

The Clark students will be challenged to design a storage device to hold books, study materials, calculators, and other items that a student in a wheelchair would need.  The storage unit must:  a) hold 40 pounds, b) attach to a wheelchair without changing the chair, c) be accessible to a student sitting in the chair so that they can add or remove materials while seated in the chair, d) not increase the width of the chair or reduce maneuverability of the wheelchair, and e) pose no safety hazard to the person in or near the wheelchair. In addition, the storage device should be adaptable to power wheelchairs, be easy to operate by the chair occupant, and not have an impact on the operation of the wheelchair.