Equitable Design Solutions

Equitable Design Solutions


Our sponsor, Professor Natascha Buswell, is driven by the ideals of universal design and increasing accessibility throughout all walks of life. Bring a professor, she recognized the need for a better lecture hall desk. None of UCI's lecture hall desktops allow for position adjustment (whether vertical or horizontal), leading to taller students having to slouch to fit their legs beneath the desktop and larger students having little space between their torsos and the desk. In addition, each desk is intended to be used by either left- or right-handed students, not both. Given that approximately 10% of people are left-handed, one would assume that about 10% of the lecture hall chairs would have left-handed desks. Most of UCI's lecture halls have less than 5%.

We conducted a survey of UCI students to see what improvements they would like in a redesign.

The three main points summarized from survey responses:

  1. Size & Comfort: Students desire larger, more adjustable desks to comfortably hold laptops, tablets, and study materials, especially during exams.
  2. Stability & Functionality: Students have raised concerns about desk stability and functionality, including the need for charging ports to enhance the desk's utility.
  3. Accessibility: Students suggest optimizing desk arrangement to accommodate for left-handed and right-handed individuals and improving overall accessibility for all body types.

Combining the above points and sponsor expectations, we devised the following requirements for our project:

  • Desktop does not extend more than 2” beyond outer edge of armrest when stowed away
  • 50% more desktop surface area than original, far edge of desktop extends at least 20” from armrest
  • 3.5” of adjustable armrest/desktop height 
  • Can bear a 100 lb load applied on the desktop without deformation
  • Assembly meets budget constraint of $400 maximum

Design Features

  • 20" wide folding hardwood desktop with aluminum hinges
  • Adjustable height aluminum armrest with 3 set height points to choose from
  • Swivel hinge connecting armrest and desktop, retaining the movement of the original desktop
  • Steel RHS (rectangular hollow section) tubing for armrest linkages
  • Indexing plungers to lock and unlock height adjustment
  • 3d-printed handle to allow for easy plunger actuation


Here is a link to our shared Google workspace for this project. This link will later be replaced to one for our final design binder.

Goals and Objectives

  • Problem definition: October 26, 2023
  • Requirements finalized: November 3, 2023
  • Physical proof-of-concept model completed: December 8, 2023
  • CAD model and parts list finalized: February 10, 2024
  • Prototype B completed: February 27, 2024
  • Prototype C completed: March 10, 2024
  • Final presentation: March 11, 2024
  • Presented at Annual Design Review: March 15, 2024

Team Contact

Keeley Wandrocke, kwandroc@uci.edu


Professor Natascha Buswell, nbuswell@uci.edu

Project status: 
Academic year: 
Winter Poster: 
Annual Design Review poster