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Genius engineering design revolutionizes pool


With only $50 and a pile of parts retrieved from dumpster diving, five Florida Gulf Coast University engineering majors, known as Dynamic Reach, revolutionized pool lifts, winning the team numerous awards and garnering national attention.
In fall 2012, Goodwill Industries approached FGCU’s Entrepreneurial Engineering Class with a request: simplify the cumbersome lift devices currently used to allow people with disabilities access to public swimming pools.
What Goodwill got became the 2013 Florida Venture Forum Colligate Business Plan statewide winner.
Dynamic Reach is comprised of members, Johnny Baker, Scott Kelly, Sandra Guerra, Tyler Dalbora, and (now) graduate Robby Donnelly; the masterminds behind the AquaRamp.
The current access devices on the market are often large, heavy, and as Donnelly explained, can often be frightening for the users. The AquaRamp eliminates all of these problems.
The AquaRamp in its essence is a chair mounted on a ramp designed for swimming pools. It is operated by the use of a hand crank that can lower or raise its occupant at a speed of his or her choosing. There is also a crank at the top of the ramp, should the occupant need assistance or need to call the ramp to the top of the pool. A button at the bottom calls the chair into the pool, should the occupant fall into the water.
At first, Baker was suspicious of the simple design behind the AquaRamp.
“We all thought, ‘it’s a ramp. There’s going to be a ramp on the market,’” Baker said. “So we were freaking out thinking we have this unoriginal design. It turns out there’s no ramp (for pools) on the market.”
This was the solution Goodwill had been looking for.
With the revision of the American Disabilities Act in 2010, the Florida law deemed all public pools must be accessible to people with handicaps. In January, this law came into effect, leaving hundreds of thousands of pools in the state noncompliant with the regulation.
“We managed to come up with a design that can be utilized for the law and there’s a huge market,” Donnelly said. “There are over 200,000 public pools that need (an AquaRamp).”
Southwest Florida has 300 of those pools alone.
By the end of the 2013 spring semester, the team of engineers had collectively dedicated over 1,000 hours of manpower to the AquaRamp.
Their first stop was the Eagle Biz Awards in Naples where the AquaRamp first started making waves. The design swept the competition, taking first place.
Now, Dynamic Reach was ready to compete with the big boys.
The team entered AquaRamp into the Florida Venture Forum Colligate Business Plan, which is a graduate competition for business and engineering students across the state of Florida. At the time, four of the five FGCU engineering students were entering as undergraduates. This mattered little to the judges.
On May 15, 2013, after an eight-minute presentation and four minutes of questioning by the judges, Dynamic Reach’s AquaRamp was declared the first place winner of the forum.
For Baker, this moment validated his studies at FGCU.
“FGCU gives its undergraduates a chance to be big people and do great things,” He said. “We’re not just a school for basketball.”
With attention from renowned publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, and a pending patent, the AquaRamp may be on its way to a pool near you.

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