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Volgenau Engineering student Marqus Keith works on portable desk

Mason Junior Marqus Keith used a 3-D computer-assisted design package and printed 3-D models to help develop a portable desk that allows him to work on the go. He worked on the project for year and a half, spending a lot of time in Mason’s Machine Shop.

Thinking on His Feet

Marqus Keith doesn’t like to sit still when he works.

“I'm the kind of person who thinks best when I’m moving around,” says the George Mason University mechanical engineering major. “One day when I was walking around wearing my backpack, I thought, ‘What if I could pull a desk out of my backpack and keep moving while I work?’ ”

Keith’s inspiration came from the desks used in lecture halls on college campuses — the type that pull up and over the arm of the chair and rest above a student's lap.

Keith began developing his invention during spring of his sophomore year. He used a 3-D computer-assisted design (CAD) package and printed 3-D models to perform the initial engineering analysis. He continued developing and testing the portable desk for the next year and a half, working in Mason’s Machine Shop every Wednesday night, on Fridays, and weekends.

Keith constructed his first prototype out of PVC pipe, but he realized the material was too fragile. The desk is now made of aluminum telescoping bars that support the plywood work surface. Without taking off the backpack, a user can unzip the backpack's side zipper and pivot the working surface into place, using only one hand.

“I like building, creating, and finding solutions to problems. My next invention will have more social relevance.”

Marqus Keith

“You can wear it while walking, standing at a bus stop, or waiting in a busy airport lounge,” says Keith.

Mechanical Engineering Department chair Oscar Barton Jr. considers what Keith has accomplished to date as quite impressive, but there is more to do. 

“[Keith] will have to rely upon his knowledge of engineering mechanics to analyze his design,” says Barton. “He might consider engaging the ME 211 Statics and ME 212 Solid Mechanics students to perform some additional analysis. This would give him additional information to work with and give the students the chance to test a product for one of their peers.”

Keith was awarded a provisional patent for his design, and he is ready to take the project to the next level. “I’ve been working on the design portion for a year and a half. I love the design, but it is time to hand it off and see if someone can polish it up,” says Keith. “Right now I am looking for a company to refine the prototype design, make it sleeker.