Adjustable Tray Support
MIT, Spring 2009

Class: Design and Rapid Prototyping for Community Service
Team Size: 5 people
Duration: 4 months
Project: Design a product that aids the residents of The Boston Home.

The Boston Home is a residential facility in Dorchester, Massachusetts, providing specialized care for adults with advanced Multiple Sclerosis. The residents of The Boston Home, like other healthy adults, like to enjoy their meals in the company of others, and the large, round dining tables in the facility are meant to encourage this. However, the residents use a variety of wheelchairs to suit their individual needs, and these wheelchairs are all sized and angled differently. The table height that it suitable for one diner may be uncomfortably low or high for another diner.

Our team developed an adjustable support that attaches to the dining table and also holds the diner's meal tray, allowing it to be raised or lowered depending on the needs of each particular diner. User testing revealed certain aspects of the design to be most crucial, such as a well positioned table attachment method and an arrangement that neither obstructs the diner's view above the table or leg position below the table. Several rounds of prototype iteration helped to address these issues, resulting in a product residents were excited to use.

Above, the first iteration prototype. During user testing, the tray was rotated - the "long" orientation made residents feel isolated. However, rotating the tray caused the user's legs to hit the bottom panel of the support. The height adjustment clamp is awkwardly placed between the user's legs.

Above, the second iteration prototype, image of the more compact main joint on the left. This prototype provides the same amount of height adjustment but without any leg obstruction under the table. The adjustment clamp has been moved to the top. A later prototype further improved on this clamp by switching from a hard-to-turn knob to easy turn-clamps.