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Wheelchair users in developing countries face special problems. Because of limited options and funds for wheelchairs, they are often forced to use wheelchairs that don't fully fit their needs and keep them from realizing the full potential of their mobility.
As a senior design team, Frontier Wheelchairs has partnered with Hope Haven International in Antigua, Guatemala, to improve existing wheelchair designs to serve the needs of wheelchair users.
Led by Dr. Norman Reese, the project allows students to go through the whole engineering design process, from interacting with the "customer" and developing design concepts, to getting hands-on experience building their own wheelchair.
Hope Haven is one of very few organizations building pediatric wheelchairs for children with special needs, but currently they can only manufacture 12" and 14" wide wheelchairs for designed for children. Teenagers and small adults with special needs simply can't use wheelchairs that small.
This year's senior design team is taking the Hope Haven "kidchair" design and creating a 16" wide version to accommodate larger users. The team is working to design, build and test a prototype that complies with international standards. The new option will give older users greater mobility and opportunities for better quality of life.
During the 2011-2012 academic year, the team tested, redesigned and created modified prototypes for wheelchairs that provide greater comfort, personalization and mobility options for wheelchair users in Guatemala.
The team began by building a prototype footrest that could be adjusted to fit the needs of the wheelchair's user. During the winter of 2011, the group traveled to Guatemala, where they distributed their modified wheelchairs and received feedback about the functionality and comfort of their modifications.
Returning to LeTourneau, the group spent the spring semester fine-tuning their design and modifying it to be more cost-efficient. They returned to Guatemala during the Spring, providing Hope Haven with their finalized modification designs so the organization could produce the new footrests independently to better provide for the needs of their community.
|Hear what LETU students have to say about their experience|