An electrically-independent power assist device for manual wheelchairs
Team: Nasif Islam (Bionegineering Master's Student), Dr. Levin Sliker, Dr. Cathy Bodine, and Kelly Waugh (clinician)
There are approximately
65 million people worldwide who need a wheelchair, a fraction of whom have
access to one.
Manual wheelchairs are the most common type of wheelchair, especially in
developing countries due to their mechanical simplicity, low cost, and low
weight. To be independently mobile while using a manual wheelchair requires
upper arm dexterity, however overuse injuries are often observed due to the
added stress on and repetitive motion of the joints and limbs. Furthermore, it
is physically exhausting to roll a wheelchair over long distances, up hills,
and over obstacles. Several power-assist wheelchair options have been developed
and are available commercially in developed countries. These chairs are
expensive (~$5300 ± $2600), and most require electricity. A low-cost and
accessible power-assist solution would decrease the burden on taxpayers by
reducing the amount paid for a device by Medicare/Medicaid and reduce stress on
the U.S. healthcare system. For those living in undeveloped and developing
countries, it would provide a critically needed low- to no-cost feature. The
proposed electrically independent wheelchair drive assist mechanism will store
mechanical energy during “easy” activities (e.g.,
rolling on flat or downhill surfaces) to be used later (either through a short burst
or extended release of the stored energy) during “hard” activities (e.g., traveling over rough terrain, over
an obstacle such as a curb, or uphill). Accessibility and usability will be key
components of the design. The drive assist mechanism will be affordable and made from
common materials and components, ensuring accessibility in developing areas
where resources are limited. The device will also be an aftermarket add-on,
eliminating the need to purchase a new wheelchair. Electrical independence
ensures that there will be no need to charge a battery, no added weight of a
battery/motor, and improved usability in areas without reliable electricity
sources. The project engineers are working closely with clinicians to develop and
test an accessible and usable product.
device has the potential to benefit millions of people who use manual
wheelchairs, but need a simple, inexpensive and electrically independent
power-assist device to alleviate physiological overuse issues, and assist with
navigating otherwise physically demanding environmental obstacles.
Development of a
3-Dimensional Spatial-Orientation Palpation Device to Measure Relative Angles,
Absolute Angles and Linear Body Dimensions for Wheelchair Seating and Positioning
Team: Dr. Levin Sliker, Dr. Cathy Bodine, Kelly Waugh (clinician), and Kurt Pierson (Bioengineering Master's student)
It is generally accepted that seated posture of wheelchair occupants affects their health, comfort and daily function. However, there is not a significant body of evidence to support this claim. Evidence-based knowledge is needed for specific relationships betwwen seating equipment features, occupant's seated posture, and health and functional outcomes. In order to objectively investigate these relationships, we must be able to quantify wheelchair seated posture. The most common tools used by clinicians for measuring wheelchair seated posture include goniometers, inclinometers and rulers. While these tools are simple, accuracy and repeatability are limited.
The purpose of this project is to develop an inexpensive and clinically useful palpation device for measuring body relative angles, absolute angles, and linear body dimensions for wheelchair seating and positioning. The measurement goals of the project coincide with the ISO 16840-1 standardized measures.
For more information on wheelchair seating and positioning, visit this page.
We have many interesting projects that need students! If you are interested in working in the BIRD lab, please send a cover letter and resume to Dr. Levin Sliker