Team Bussin'

Project undertaken in course year 2022-23 with Volkswagen

Project Goal

To design an entryway system for Volkswagen's Classroom on Wheel so that students with and without disabilities are able to use the same entryway to enter and exit the vehicle safely

Project Motivation

As many as 30% of children in rural Brazil are estimated to not be attending school: the Volkswagen "Classroom on Wheels" concept vehicle is under development to propose a solution.  Existing school bus vehicles commonly feature separate entrances for wheelchair users and able-bodied students, which promotes a feeling of otherness. 


Children in rural Brazil often face long journey times, challenging terrain, and other impediments in traveling to attend school. Decreased school participation has negative impacts on the personal, social and economic development that is so crucial to the largely low-income populations in these areas. 

Access for students with mobility impairments - such as wheelchair users or students on the autism spectrum - shows an opportunity for improvement. Brazil is home to an estimated 1.5 million people with an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and an estimated 3.5 million people aged 2 and over use a wheelchair, cane, crutch, walking frame or some prosthesis.  UNICEF's research reveals that 21% of students between the ages of 6 and 14 who do not attend school do so on the basis of chronic health conditions. 

Conventional school bus designs deployed in Brazil feature separate entryways for persons who require mobility assistance and those who to not; this separation can negatively affect a disabled person's sense of independence, inclusion and personhood, and discourage school participation.

Current dual entrance bus, with separate entrance for wheelchair access

High Priority Requirements

Ethical Considerations


A lift-stair hybrid system that deploys, actuates and retracts in the same manner regardless of user capabilities or use case

System solution

Concept sketch showing the final design, as deployed.  An able-bodied person can walk up the steps; someone needing assistance moves onto the ramp, and then the actuators pull the ramp up and in to the vehicle; the stairs fold out of the way.

Working prototype

50% scale working prototype, shown in mid-actuation.  The wooden structure represents the vehicle, and the aluminum components represent the stair lift system.  

Lifting a teammate

Student team demonstrating the device. Linear actuators are sufficiently strong to perform the lift operation, lifting the system and the student riding the device. 

2D stairs, open

2-dimensional study demonstrating the stairs in the deployed position.  The long horizontal beam on the bottom represents the platform, and; the shorter horizontal beams represent steps. 

2D stairs, folded

2-dimensional study demonstrating the stairs having moved into the folded position.  The steps are lifted by the platform, which is moved into the appropriate position by the arms. The stairs fold into the vehicle

3D deployment of stairs

View of the stairs being deployed

Arm Stress Analysis

Stress analysis on the lift arms during deployment.  

Ramp deflection testing

Testing setup for measuring deflection of the platform 

Ramp deflection test results

Test results of platform deflection vs predicted 

Other testing conducted

Student team

Future Work