May 3, 2011

 Jared Williamson has been a hunter since he was big enough to hold a gun. He grew up on 40 acres of hay fields, with another 1100 acres of woods behind his house in Loranger, La. He remembers bird hunting with his BB gun when he was very young and has fond memories of climbing in his homemade deer stand in the early hours of the morning with his father.

For hunting enthusiasts, like Williamson, the sport is an important pastime, a lifelong hobby and passion. Williamson’s passion is what drew the LSU senior to this particular Mechanical Engineering (ME) Capstone Design project.  

“Knowing how important hunting is to me and how devastated I would be if an injury made it impossible for me to hunt made me pursue this project,” said Williamson. “I want to give someone who loves to hunt and is, unfortunately, disabled the opportunity to pursue his passion.” 

But the team’s project will do more than help. The students are building a gun platform that will attach to a motorized vehicle to assist quadriplegic hunters in their sport. The project specifically targets disabled veterans, who may not have full use of their arms and hands upon returning from military duty.  

Sponsored by Doug Rasmussen, a wheelchair-bound hunter himself, the project is a three-year effort to improve the design and effectiveness of the structure. In the first year, students determined that the concept was feasible to execute. They constructed a basic gun platform with a camera to enable hunters to view their target on a monitor, about the size of a computer screen.

In the second year, the team hopes to refine last year’s design and overall accuracy. The group has made several enhancements to last year’s project. First, the teammates have upgraded the joysticks used to operate the gun. Second, they’ve added structural jacks to the wheelchair to prevent rocking. Finally, they are using a high-definition monocular device, instead of a basic camera and monitor. This last improvement is significant.

“Instead of using a computer screen, we’ve got a monocular, which is basically sunglasses that have a really small, maybe a one-inch, screen that will be held very close to the eye,” said Josh Chapman, senior, mechanical engineering and a Baton Rouge, La. native. “We feel that this will really give the user a sense of looking through the scope and give them the full-on experience.”

For the third phase of the project, ME students will perfect the gun platform’s aesthetics and cost-efficiency. 

While the engineering seniors are enjoying the building stages of their project, they are most excited about the prospect of disabled hunters using their gun platform. Williamson said Rasmussen hopes to use the students’ project in a Wounded Warriors event, where wheelchair-bound veterans will use the group’s gun platform to participate in the sport they love – hunting. 

 “It feels like we’re actually helping people,” said Chapman. This is something that will be used.  To me, it gives a sense of doing something and helping people, and that’s an extra incentive to work hard.”

“Something about being out in the woods alone or with buddies, gives a feeling that just can't be described in words,” added Williamson. “It is a livelihood that would be hard to survive without. You would have to be a hunter or outdoorsman to understand. It is truly a passion.”

Group members include the following senior, mechanical engineering students: Jared Williamson, Josh Chapman, John Harrison (Madison, Miss.) and Clayton Rosenthal (Alexandria, La.).

The Department of Mechanical Engineering (ME) will host the ME 4202 Capstone Design annual seminar presentation May 4-5 in the Frank Walk Design Presentation Room, 140 ELAB. ME undergraduates worked throughout two semesters on a design project of their choice. Projects are judged by a design panel consisting of local industry leaders and LSU faculty and alumni.

All ME faculty members, project sponsors, faculty advisors, alumni, graduate students, ME undergraduates and the general public are invited to this event each year. To obtain information for next year’s event, submit an area for research, or to become a judge or sponsor, please contact Larry Dufour at ldufour@lsu.edu or Dimitris Nikitopoulos at medimi@lsu.edu. 

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