Sandwich holder

User Story

Josh is an adult who lives in Richmond, has a degree in IT, and worked in IT. He has a diagnosis of Cerebral Palsy. Josh uses a wheelchair, has lived alone since he was 21 years old, and is experienced in using a touchscreen with a head pointer to use his computer. Josh’s interests include computers, drinking a nice Coca-Cola, and being independent. Josh came to us with the problem of not being able to eat a sandwich independently and we set out to solve this problem. This challenge stems from Josh not being able to use his hands or arms for functional tasks. He has an aid who comes to his house twice a day to help out with things and who can hold a sandwich for him to eat, however, his aid is not around during lunchtime so Josh goes without lunch. Josh would benefit from an adaptive piece of equipment that allows him to eat a sandwich independently after his aid places it in the device upon their morning departure.

User need statement:

  • Josh has trouble eating a sandwich independently because he does not have functional use of hands. He does not have an aid present during lunch hour so he is unable to eat lunch.

Point of view statement:

  • How might we help Josh eat a sandwich independently?

Design Process

Initial design

Our initial design included a bendable gooseneck phone holder in conjunction with a sturdy base, a lazy susan imitation piece for the sandwich to rest on, and a wooden rod to stabilize the gooseneck. The bendable gooseneck phone holder would clamp to the table and be manipulated to the appropriate height for Josh to reach his mouth to the sandwich. On top of the gooseneck at Josh’s mouth level, there would be a square base (~6”x6”) to act as a piece to stabilize the sandwich if it is particularly flexible and bendy. A rod (~5” tall) with a slightly pointy top would be attached to the base in a vertical fashion (point side up), which would be attached to and coming up from the square base and then pierce through a circular piece (2” wide) that acts as a lazy susan for the sandwich to directly rest on. The circular piece would be able to rotate around the vertical pointed rod. The sandwich would then be pierced through the rod, and rest on top of the circular lazy susan piece, enabling the sandwich to rotate. Josh would lean forward to bite the sandwich and rotate it using his mouth/chin/nose to continually rotate the sandwich as he eats it, enabling him to eat as much of the sandwich as possible. An image of this prototype is pictured below (Image 2). An additional idea was to utilize the gooseneck phone holder and place a plexiglass box with the sides removed to allow for wider sandwiches to sit in the box as necessary. Concerns with this design include the risk of the sandwich falling from the holder as Josh takes a bite and continued design development will focus on further stabilization of the sandwich.

This image displays the brainstorming process for the initial design (Image 1):

Initial prototype including rotating Lazy Susan piece (Image 2):

Revisions and Design Updates

As a design team we went through a multitude of ideas on how to build a device to help Josh eat his sandwich independently that would not require the use of arms or hands. One of our earlier ideas was to pierce the sandwich onto a rotating Lazy Susan type feature to have Josh be able to rotate it with his mouth/chin/nose to eat all sides of his sandwich. After one of our group members tried out something similar to this we decided to pivot from this idea since there were challenges related to keeping the sandwich stabilized in this design. We continued with our plan to use a gooseneck phone holder as the arm of the device but decided to instead use thermoplastic (a plastic material that is moldable when heated and hardens when cooled) for the sandwich holder itself to create a box type feature that we would line with food-grade silicone material to provide some resistance for the sandwich. The resistance provided by silicone would solve the potential problem of the sandwich falling out of the previous idea of having a plexiglass sandwich box. We were also thinking of using either clips or a wing nut to provide extra pressure on the sandwich holder to keep the sandwich in place if necessary.

Instructor feedback on this next design idea included safety concerns regarding thermoplastic and the wing nut containing harmful materials or substances that would not be safe when touching food. To prevent any harmful materials touching the sandwich, we lined all thermoplastic with food-grade silicone and removed the wing nut from the plan so that the only material touching the sandwich would be the silicone. Client feedback on this design included a need to extend the sandwich about 7 inches out from his table to ensure his mouth could reach it from his position in his wheelchair when rolled up to the table. Josh assured us that he would be able to grip the sandwich with his mouth without dropping it from the silicone-lined thermoplastic sandwich holder, and he was very appreciative of our efforts thus far.

Further experimentation with our design after receiving feedback led us to our silicone-lined thermoplastic sandwich holder held up by the gooseneck with a clip, pictured below. We molded black thermoplastic around a square silicone bag that was the perfect size for a sandwich to make sure the sandwich box was the correct size and shape. Then we clipped the box with the silicone inside of it to the top end of the gooseneck while the bottom end of the gooseneck was clipped to the table. We adjusted the gooseneck to be about the right height and distance from the edge of the table for someone sitting in a chair to not have to lean forward too much to reach their mouth to the sandwich.

Continued instructor feedback included thoughts on smoothing the edges and seams of the thermoplastic sandwich holder. Reasons for this included the fact that the thermoplastic holder is able to be hand washed and we want to avoid mold buildup or food particles getting trapped in the seams, as well as the aesthetic appeal of the sandwich holder.  After some work on the original thermoplastic holder, we decided to just recreate the holder in a slightly different fashion with a new piece of thermoplastic. Still using black thermoplastic we molded it around the silicone bag in a way that would create smoother seams and edges. This recreation gave the sandwich holder a much more smooth, sleek look and it fit into the gooseneck clip more easily as well. Our new and improved thermoplastic sandwich holder is pictured below with the silicone sandwich holder inside of it.

Final Design

The final design of Josh’s sandwich holder included what was originally a phone holder that has a built-in clamp that can attach to a table to function as the base of the device. The arm of this former phone holder was the gooseneck we needed in order to position the sandwich in the proper place for Josh to reach it, since the arm of the phone holder was adjustable and could be bent into a variety of shapes. Our final design also included the sandwich holder that we designed using thermoplastic. Thermoplastic is a stiff plastic material that when heated, becomes flimsy and moldable, then cools and becomes hardened and stable. Through heating and molding the thermoplastic we were able to create a stable box with an opening on one end to act as the sandwich holder. We lined the inside of the thermoplastic sandwich holder with a food-grade silicone bag to ensure client safety as well as provide traction when eating the sandwich out of the holder as to protect the sandwich from falling out of the holder. The thermoplastic sandwich holder was then inserted and glued into the clip at the top end of the adjustable gooseneck arm to ensure stability of the sandwich holder when eating from it. However, the glue did not secure these pieces together as well as we hoped so we added a piece of thermoplastic to the bottom and back sides of the clip and thermoplastic sandwich holder box to reinforce the adhesion between these two pieces. This piece of thermoplastic covered the bottom side of the clip and attached it to the bottom side of the thermoplastic box. This reinforcement piece also had tabs that extended over and attached to the back side of the thermoplastic box to ensure that the entire clip would remain attached to the thermoplastic sandwich holder. One of the last steps of the creation of this device was measuring and adjusting the height and distance of the sandwich holder from the table. Our team visited our client at his home to get the correct measurements specifically for him sitting at the table he would be using most often for eating his sandwiches. Once we had the gooseneck arm adjusted to the correct position, we reinforced the arm by wrapping thermoplastic around sections of the arm so the arm would be more sturdy and stay positioned at the correct measurements. Once these thermoplastic sections cooled and hardened the arm was reinforced, sturdy, and ready to support Josh’s sandwiches at the correct position for him!

To use this final product, a sandwich is inserted ¾ of the way into the silicone bag within the thermoplastic holder, leaving enough sandwich hanging out to allow the client to take a bite. As the client bites, he will pull the sandwich forward slightly, allowing for the full sandwich to be eaten and enjoyed. As this is a product used for eating, the ability to clean it efficiently and effectively was considered. To clean, simply unscrew the clamp that is on the top end of the adjustable gooseneck arm and remove the entire top piece of the device (top clamp that is attached to the thermoplastic sandwich holder and silicone bag). The clamp, thermoplastic box, and the silicone bag inside of the box can be removed from the device for washing. The silicone sandwich bag itself can also be removed from the inside of the thermoplastic box while the box will remain attached to the clamp. The silicone bag can be placed in a dishwasher while the thermoplastic box and clamp need to be hand washed. We are hopeful that this final design serves our client well and he enjoys many sandwiches as a result!


Item Cost Link
Phone holder with adjustable gooseneck arm that clips to a table or desk $20 Amazon
Silicone sandwich bag (7″ x 7.5″ x 1″) $12 Kohls
Thermoplastic sheet (8”x 12”) $10 Amazon
Gorilla Glue $5 Lowes
Total $47

Product Critique


  • Device is flexible and adjustable due to gooseneck design
  • Sandwich holder can be detached to be cleaned
  • Device is lined with material that is food safe
  • Device is light and portable so it can be moved to different locations in the house, or taken on the go


  • Outside thermoplastic material may not be safe to eat directly from, but this will not touch the food due to the silicone lining
  • Device is sturdy enough for activity, but if knocked hard could topple over
  • Water may become caught in thermoplastic over time with risk of mold development. To prevent this, product must be sponge washed and thoroughly dried


Manufacturing instructions: Manufacturing Instructions_ Sandwich Holder

User instructions: User Instructions for J and Aides

Student designers: Teresa Artis, Henry Brennan, Anne Gaucher, Riley Wilkerson

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