By Professor of Civil Engineering Edwin Schmeckpeper, P.E., Chair, Civil & Environmental Engineering and Construction Management

Take a great idea, add a few Norwich engineering professors and eager architecture and engineering students, and what do you get? Wheel Pad, an ecofriendly 200-square foot accessible bedroom and bathroom designed to be attached to an existing home. It provides a respectful and supportive space for people with mobility issues, making it easy for friends or family to provide support while figuring out long-term solutions.

Wheel Pad was conceived by Joseph Cincotta, Principal Architect of LineSync Architecture and Wheel Pad L3C,  a green design architecture firm in Wilmington, Vermont.

Wheel Pad L3C participated in the 2015 Vermont InnovateHER Vermont Challenge, a crosscutting prize competition to unearth innovative products and services that help impact and empower the lives of women and families. It finished second in the business plan competition, missing the $10,000 prize by a hair. Or, did Wheel Pad walk away with the grand prize after all?

Norwich University Assistant Engineering Professor David Feinauer, always interested in innovation, stopped in to watch the InnovateHER competition. Intrigued with the idea of Wheel Pad, its possibilities for veterans, and opportunities for engineering, architecture, and project management students, he suggested Norwich students might be a good fit for building the Wheel Pad prototype.

Wheel Pad L3C President Julie Lineberger contacted Edwin Schmeckpeper, department chair of civil and environmental engineering at Norwich, and soon the university and Wheel Pad started a beautiful alliance in constructing Wheel Pad’s first prototype—which came to be called the “Norwich Model.”

Working closely with numerous students, materials were ordered, plans made, and once the housing trailer arrived, Wheel Pad’s initial prototype took shape. The Wheel Pad prototype was constructed by students from the School of Engineering and the School of Architecture + Art, and faculty from the David Crawford School of Engineering. The prototype was completed last summer on Aug. 31, and then delivered to LineSync Architects.

Wheel Pad then toured rehab centers and hospitals where interested people viewed the Norwich Model. The final stop was at the Tiny House Festival in Brattleboro. After the tour, and some interior modifications, the Norwich University constructed Wheel Pad will be perpetually donated to Windham County residents in need.

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