Technology that enables sportspeople to re-right their wheelchair after a crash has been developed by students from Imperial College London.
The team of undergraduates and postgraduates from the Department of Bioengineering at the College have augmented a sports wheelchair so that people with disabilities can easily push themselves back onto their wheels. The team say their technology could benefit people who compete in wheelchair basketball and potentially wheelchair rugby.
In these vigorous sports, players can crash into one another and tip over onto the floor. These sportspeople are strapped into the wheelchair and often have the ability to move it into a frontal position, but find it difficult to push the wheelchair upright because of the way these wheelchairs are currently designed. Also, some players have less control over their abdominal muscles and have weaker upper arm strength, which means that they don’t have the power to push themselves up. This means that games have to be stopped while assistants run onto the court to help the players upright their chairs, which is time consuming.
In the video below the students demonstrate how their technology works.
The Imperial team have developed a device that enables players to push their wheelchairs into an upright position. They have augmented the front bumper section of a sports wheelchair and inserted metal wheel with rubber casing and a clutch mechanism into the frame. This provides a lockable pivot point between the wheelchair’s bumper and the floor so that a player can push themselves up from the floor and re-right the chair and resume playing.
The students have already trialled their augmented sports wheelchair with members of the London Titans wheelchair basketball team.
The Imperial team consists of Jacqueline Beddoe-Rosendo, Bianca de Blasi and Simone Castagno. This project is part of the five-year Rio Tinto Sports Innovation Challenge, now in its third year, which aims to harness the creativity of Imperial’s students in order to make sports more accessible to people with disabilities and to improve the sporting and training equipment available to them.
Simone Castagno said: “We want to empower players who compete in wheelchair sports, so that they don’t have to rely on others to get them upright and in back in the game. Ultimately, we hope to see our device being used by sportspeople in the near future.”
To speed up the process, as a philanthropic gesture, the team is approaching manufacturers of sports wheelchairs and offering their technology for free.
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