Designing Monster Truck Magic – Ep5

Trick AND Treat!

If you haven’t been listening to the Born to Design Podcasts, you are missing out on some inspirational stories from designers and inventors like yourself.  Listen to them out here…

If you have been listening, then I have another great story for you, but this one has a twist to it.  When I started the Born to Design podcast, I wanted to be sure it was about inspiring stories from OUR CUSTOMERS ONLY, not focused on products or our employees. I’m going to break that promise early and interview a SOLIDWORKS employee, however, this is not a story about an employee, but a story about a young boy named Jonah, a few SOLIDWORKS employees, a monster truck rally, and how they partnered with an incredible organization called Magic Wheelchair. It might sound like a trick, but it’s really a treat, and it’s a story you don’t want to miss.

I had the pleasure to sit down with Chin-Loo Lama, who was the team leader on this special project with Magic Wheelchair — an organization that makes out-of-this-world costumes for children in wheelchairs.  Chin-Loo walked me through the entire process of matching with Jonah, and designing and building an entire costume for Jonah.

I don’t want to give all the details, but Chin-Loo goes through everything, from the initial contact through the BIG REVEAL at a Monster Truck Rally with MAX-D.  Enjoy, and let me know what you think.

Be sure to subscribe and don’t miss any inspiring stories from the Born to Design Podcast.


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For more info on Magic Wheelchairs, check out their website here…

Also, we have a blog post from June about the full Magic Wheelchair reveal with Jonah at Monster Truck Jam here…

If you are interested in managing your designs in a collaborative environment (that Chi-Loo mentioned), try out the 3DEXPERIENCE Social Collaboration Services.  To learn more go to:


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Transcription (AI assisted)

Rachel York 0:00
Hi again everybody. It’s time. This is what we’ve all been waiting for. This is our build team leader Chin-Loo Lama

Chin-Loo Lama 0:08
Hi everyone at this is Chin-Loo Lama I am here at Monster Jam pit party. I have a special guest with me. Jonah.

Jonah 0:16
Hello everyone.

Jonah, we as a team from SOLIDWORKS came to talk to you about a special costume that we’re doing for you. It’s right behind me. You want to take a look at?

Jonah 0:26
Uh sure.

Chin-Loo Lama 0:27

Unknown 0:27
3-2-1… (Cheering)

Jonah 0:34
Oh my god thats amazing. How do that so fast!

Chin-Loo Lama 0:37
We’re magic wheelchair, we can do magic.

Jonah 0:39
Oh yeah, that makes sense.

Cliff 0:44
Hi there and welcome to the SOLIDWORKS Born to Design Podcast. inspiring stories about those who create, build in bit and transform new ideas into actual new products. And by the way, they all use auto orgs. I’m your host Cliff Medling and this episode is title designing monster truck magic as today you’re in for a real treat. As I have an inspiring story that combines design innovation, a few SOLIDWORKS employs a monster truck rally and one incredible young boy named Jonah. They all teamed up with a great organization called Magic wheelchair. I’ll be speaking today with Chin-Loo Lama, a SOLIDWORKS employee and also the team leader on the project with magic wheelchair. Let’s jump right in.

chin Lu,

ChinLoo, What is magic wheelchair?

Chin-Loo Lama 1:33
So magic wheelchair is a non profit organization that was started two, maybe three years ago. And it was really an inspirational story from a gentleman named Ryan Weimer. He has a family with I think, two children who suffer from a similar type of handicap that they have to be wheelchair bound. So he really found it very exciting to get them engaged with the folks around and have be proud of being who they are, when they get on these amazing epic costumes.

He started out just making really cool costumes for Halloween. And then through his wife support and neighbors, they found that, you know, other kids in similar situations, wanted to have costumes like that. And then from that, they did a Kickstarter and started the foundation. And since then it’s just blossomed into this amazing voluntary groups of artists, artisans, professionals, who just jumped in and made these epic I mean epic with a capital E costumes that can pass on from one town to another but it really transform these children into superheroes and people that they idolize and it’s just something that you can see it directly from their eyes. And so this this foundation has started it and they encourage folks to volunteer.

So you know, I I met someone at Maker Faire David Vogel and with just a few sentences he caught me and I was very engaged in the story, I looked it up and thought SOLIDWORKS could really do something amazing with our know how, in our tools, and that’s kind of the beginning. Everything else is history.

Cliff 3:11
That’s great. So, so the wheelchairs, it’s really just an outside housing that fits over the wheelchair, and they could make it into whatever they want whatever they’re interested in right?

Chin-Loo Lama 3:19
Right. So it’s, it’s just like a typical costume. Like, you still have to consider things like comfort for the person inside the weight, all that stuff. And it really is to the point where they’re so epic now that you have to figure out how to fit it through doorways and elevators and things like that. Whereas something that we wear there is it’s loosen, you know, you can just fold it or take it off. But these things are mounted on like strapped on and moves with the wheelchair. So there’s a little bit of a difference but yes, it’s super or above the wheelchair is not something that it’s screwed on type or attached to the child in any way. So it’s safe.

Cliff 3:56
So that’s great. So once you heard about this, this organization, you think SOLIDWORKS could get involved in this. So how did, what was the next steps after that, how that get started?

Chin-Loo Lama 4:05
Yeah. So as I mentioned, I heard this story, read into it, watch some videos, like those videos out there got me into tears, I remember was thinking, Well, you know, we spent every day working on our software and a few of us who are lucky enough to talk to customers, we can hear how we change their lives and make their work so much more effective because of our software. But honestly, it’s it’s still kind of, um, you don’t get the emotional paycheck to the level of if you weren’t working in this industry, or doing what we do afterwards. If it comes, it goes with you that you feel like you’ve made an impact in with this particular project. It feels like regardless of what I do it from this point on I made a frickin costume for a little boy who really deserve this.

So I think it was an opportunity for me to just get a lot of my colleagues that opportunity to shine. To do something meaningful also, on top of which apply their skill sets, things that they know how to do things that they haven’t had a chance to show off. But the core of everything, we’re still using our own software, we’re learning how our software affects other people who do things like this. So it was like a win win in my mind. So it was no brainer that we should do this.

Cliff 5:21
That’s awesome. So how did you approach your team or people with this idea? And how did also I guess follow up question be, well, how do we introduce to the project who handed you the project and stuff?

Unknown 5:34

Chin-Loo Lama 5:35
So when I first got interested in a project I said, you know, we’ll build something but in my mind, it was like the hypothetical way because in my mind when I saw this project I’m like if if no one wanted to do this with me, I would just myself, code, my garage, you know, they are some tools and build something traditionally trained in mechanical engineering, and I’m an artist in my heart. So I knew I could do this on my own if I really needed to, but um these stories was just moving. And I knew that it would probably kill me if I tried to do this by myself. And plus I had a few folks that I could rely on. So I sent out an innocent email that kind of set the stage of what this foundation is about what they could do with this project and how cool it could be. And I think within the day, maybe the next couple of days, everyone that I sent the email to came back and said, Yeah, absolutely include me. I’m interested, not a single person about out and so from that point, it’s just kind of grew. They asked other folks that they knew who would be interested and we eventually realized that we needed a core team that would be dedicated to just kind of make those key decisions on what to make, how to do it, what materials to us so we started to divide things up. So it was really just finding the people who I honestly finding is a very tricky word, just having people who are passionate about the project, that they will figure out how to get it done. And we were lucky enough to have those folks on the team.

Cliff 7:04
That’s great. So once you developed the team, you went to magic wheelchair serious that hey, we’ve

Chin-Loo Lama 7:09
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So. So I actually send an email back to my contact, which is David Vogel. He’s the representative of magic wheelchair in the, on the West Coast because this, this organization was started actually on the west coast. So David Vogel was the gentleman who approached me at the New York Maker Faire. That was how this whole thing started. And so he I reached out to him said, you know, we do want to have this conversation again, we want to start a team we want to build something for you guys. He originally asked for help, actually, with getting access to folks who could create CNC projects, help them mill certain things, or 3d print stuff. So that was actually the reason why he came to me and also the software but I said, you know, we can help you with all that and we want to build something. So then once that started, we spoke to the right people at magic wheelchair.

They were very eager to help us match with a kiddo. They call their kids, kiddo. Just super cute. And once we had the match, first, we have to really, you know, they’re they’re a good team. They’re vetting our skill sets. One, make sure that they don’t just like randomly set up a team that could very well not be able to deliver the project.

Cliff 8:19
Right right.

Chin-Loo Lama 8:20
Yeah. So they were diligent about making sure that we knew what we were doing. I reassured them that you’re talking to a room full of CAD geeks who are probably super perfectionist and could do this to the max. Make a true to scale replica, whatever, who want to build this super possible.

Yeah you did I saw the final and it was pretty impressive.

Yeah. So they were very eager and that’s kind of how it started.

Cliff 8:44
Okay, great. Great. So what was the next step where you introduced to Jonah at that point, or told his situation or?

Chin-Loo Lama 8:51
Yeah, so once we knew who the kiddo was, I was given permission to reach out to the family and that’s when we started to get timing we wanted to get a team down there. We knew we had to get first we need to know what he wanted. I mean, we got an idea of what he might like from from his mom who submitted the request we knew as a monster truck. At first we thought it was actually the Grave Digger and which we all really started to make ideas and sketch up concepts from it. But I kept warning the team and like don’t get married to that idea. We haven’t talked to Jonah yet. And then when we did finally meet him, he had no idea what it was actually very funny. We went there, his mom was very adamant about keeping this super secret and not getting his hopes up. Because if anything falls through, you know, it would be terrible to try to explain everything.

So he had no idea. So we came in there were probably five of us and when we walked up, the parents brought us in and we’re all kind of like we had little toolbox with us and I looked down smiling at Jonah I said, Hey, Jonah, you know why we’re here? And he’s like, um, I don’t know. Are you here to get fixed my computer, Are you here to give me a new computer and they actually know and I try to explain to him what it was about magical to. He actually hadn’t heard about it because it was the mom that actually set everything up. So then I explained to him our goal, and I showed him some examples of other costumes has been made. He was very excited about it. I think he was the whole time turning away trying to figure out what exactly would make sense for him. And with some help from his mom. He then express that Oh, yeah, my favorite monster truck is actually max D, Maximum Destruction. And instantly, I think one of his siblings ran into his room and got a little model of it from his bed, and we just like plopped it down. He had a little toy we took a picture of that we’re like, okay, that’s our inspiration right there.

So yeah, we got to meet Jonah personality was amazing. Like, he was just bursting with excitement and just hilarity and we took all the measurements we made sure we knew what model of wheelchair he was using,

Cliff 10:58

Chin-Loo Lama 10:59
Which actually brought us to that next stage of finding out if we could actually get a CAD model of the wheelchair, we figured, you know, it has to be out there. And so through a little bit of research internally, one of our team members was like, oh, by the way, Permobil is a SOLIDWORKS customer, no joke. Permobil is everywhere. So we reached out to us a little bit, but we finally got the model, we then we build everything around it. So that was much more comforting to have that baseline than to start with nothing,

right? You knew it was going to fit when you were done? Yeah,

Yeah, exactly. Plus our measurements. So we did a lot of like, green screen photography. And we were able to use that also to superimpose inside SOLIDWORKS and get a lot of that aesthetic.

Cliff 11:40
Oh wow I didn’t know you that. That’s pretty cool.

Chin-Loo Lama 11:42
Yeah, I didn’t know we could do that either. So Rob juices, one of our CAD masters on the team. He I learned I learned that from him, so that’s pretty cool.

Cliff 11:52
Yeah, it’s great. So the team built the, what do you call it, the costume or the?

Chin-Loo Lama 11:56
Yeah, the costume.

Cliff 11:56
Costume around it. And you guys spent How long did that take you?

Chin-Loo Lama 12:00
Yeah we wanted we keep saying six weeks to actually do the fabrication but we definitely have a few weeks before that was that you know meeting the team getting to know each other skill set so I would say six weeks to actually go from CAD modeling to the physical product but I would also say two or three weeks before that just to get ourselves sorted out

Cliff 12:24
Get everything ready to get the designs ready yeah so and if you see this final I asked that you take a look online and look at the final design it’s pretty impressive for six weeks so I mean I don’t want to reveal but there’s a very touching story about how you presented the wheelchair to Jonah once it was all done Tell us about that experience and by the way you can view all this on the SOLIDWORKS Facebook page we did some Facebook live videos you’ll see chin Lou the team and in Jonah there when they presented it. But talk about that gender that was that was an exciting moment.

Chin-Loo Lama 12:55
Yeah, the reveal was amazing and I have to give a lot of props to Rachel York. She was one that I think if we hadn’t reached out, I don’t know how this would have turned out. But she had all her connections and she was able to contact the right people and folks at Feld Entertainment. The folks that do the monster jams, the instant they heard the story from Rachel. She was just as excited I think, even more than I was, and then she contacted Feld Entertainment, they were just as excited so it wasn’t I think the hard part was just kind of aligning the logistics but the passion was definitely there everyone wanted this to happen so on the day of Monster Jam that was held in Foxboro Massachusetts and we also found out that the family the Sylvia family Jonah they go to that event every year it was like a ritual thing so we said you know that just makes sense. We have to do this

Cliff 13:47
Makes sense, yeah, everything’s aligning.

Chin-Loo Lama 13:48
right so and then through talking to fell they said, you know, the best time really for him to have that moment with the driving team, especially max D and comments and all that stuff would be the pit party.

Cliff 14:00
And Max D and that team was all on board when they yeah they were

Chin-Loo Lama 14:03
Yeah they had the media there yeah

Cliff 14:05

Chin-Loo Lama 14:05
They were all on board they had Tom there they had their own announcers all they’re ready to see I don’t think they knew what they were expecting either because they were all just kind of excited when they saw it but we did we’ll the costume in and they saw they saw us assemble it and people were already coming up to is this is before Jonah came up. And we were trying to make it so that Jonah wouldn’t actually come to we had everything under curtain. So as we’re assembling it, the pit crew like the real people who actually work on max D came over and we’re asking questions like, wow, how did wow you know, and they’re looking at the tires as we mount them. In fact, as as we put the cloth over it, you can still see the wheels out and we pushed it into this tent where Tom would actually give out autographs so we kind of stole that tent so that would be under shade. It was a really hot day and then the team that is preparing the pit party for the crowds to come in. We’re Putting on the keep out tape around the Big Max D so I kind of like tugged at the one of the guys shoulder Im like is it possible for you to put the tape on our max D?

So he said oh yeah absolutely so he came over he wrapped it around a little mini max D and it was really neat we have a picture of that somewhere to and you can see like big Max D with the tape around a little Max D with the tape around and it was just enough like like coverage on the thing that you don’t really know what’s underneath so when Jonah came in with his family he had no idea was there even though it’s like right in his in front of him really fun he comes in no clue what’s going on. He was just ecstatic that he got to spend some time with Tom and they had conversations, you know, just on the side. He gave him some CHATZKY like the hat and explain who Tom is again Tom mean ments I think that’s how you pronounce his last name. He’s the driver of Max D. So yeah, to a lot of folks. He’s really like the epitome because he does all these amazing tricks with Max D that like no one else really. So he’s like the super driver

right right

Superhero Yeah. To Jonah, like, he was his hero, you know his idol. So it was really nice to, like, have that one on one time with your idol. And at that moment, we got him. He was excited about. Tom met with the folks. He was gigging on everything and all of a sudden, you know, the cameras came on for Facebook Live. And we directed him into this area. And that’s kind of the reveal that you would watch online where we announced it.

And we asked him, you know, do you know why you’re here? He wasn’t very much aware of what’s going on. But I reminded him that he had asked for a costume. He’s Oh, yeah, that thing, you know. Yeah. What am I going to see now? prototype, you know, so he was very much Yeah, as charming as he normally is completely not. No idea. And we showed it to him. He we blew him away. And his reaction was awesome. And I have to say like, as much as what he said, but what he did afterwards it was I swear, almost like 100 degrees with the sun coming down. We put them in this costume we made it was very well ventilated. But you could see he was sweating he was wearing the max D shirt he had the cap on it was really warm so regardless of in the costume or not but he refused he just flat out refused to come out of the costume for like two hours straight. You can see loved it so much so it’s very heartwarming. We were following him with water around just making sure that he was okay. But um he had a grand time and I think that’s what was important. Yeah.

Cliff 17:25
Yeah that’s great. What a great What a great moment. What a great experience. Chandler That was awesome. Thank you for coming and sharing that story. And thank you for taking the reins and making it happen and leading this team and find the team and and doing it again. So it’s a wonderful story. Thanks again for sharing that.

Chin-Loo Lama 17:40
Yeah. Thank you for inviting me.

Cliff 17:42
Yeah. So let’s talk about the software that was used to design and build a Jonah’s costume.

Chin-Loo Lama 17:47
Yeah, so when we approach building the project, we definitely went through conversations about how we want it to manage the design and also the schedule of what to do. We settled on using the 3dExperience platform where we created a dashboard had everyone access to it, we kept all of the critical links to websites and collections of inspiration, reference material, job duties and schedule. So all of that was really aggregated into that platform and that dashboard, and then subsequently, all of us have our own skills with like, Adobe products, SOLIDWORKS, you know, so we kind of just dumped a lot of our work in there. But it was a good way of managing all of our diverse backgrounds,

right, and to get it done in six weeks. Right.


You need something to manage every every piece or somebody be like, Oh, we forgot this part of the whole design. Yeah,

yeah, our our team members just came out of their traditional job roles. And you could see, like, certain people are just natural project planners, and some folks are just their natural doers. You give them some idea and they spin off and then they’re getting all of it done quickly and even before you realize it’s already mounted and ready to go and we definitely have artists on the team we have some like cosplay experts which was awesome really handy so yeah I love my team members you can’t tell but it was just a lot of things that I think also helped us respect each other more as colleagues and


so work yeah

Cliff 19:27
yeah don’t sign me up for the project planning piece though. That’s that’s definitely not my wheelhouse.

Chin-Loo Lama 19:32

Cliff 19:33
Alright, well, thanks again Chin-Loo that was awesome.

Chin-Loo Lama 19:36

Cliff 19:36
Great story. Thank you for sharing with us.

Thanks for listening today. And remember that if you are interested in managing your designs in a collaborative environment, as Chin-Loo mentioned, try out the 3dexperience social collaboration services. To learn more go to Thats

We will be back again soon with more great Born to Design podcasts at or wherever podcasts are readily available. Until then, keep on innovating.

Cliff Medling

Cliff Medling is a Senior Marketing Manager at SolidWorks and the host for the Born to Design Podcast.