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 Purdue Students Lead Wheelchair Innovation
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Purdue Students Lead Wheelchair Innovation

Purdue University, located in Lafayette, Indiana, is a major research university. They are known for their numerous discoveries, designs and inventions in science, technology, engineering and more. And recently, four senior Purdue students have designed a wheelchair that could possibly lead to the device’s greater innovation.

Senior mechanical engineering students of the university were given their final project assignment in spring 2014 in their capstone class as part of their academic major. They start with an issue or problem, continue with a hypothesis, perform an engineering study and analyses and finally create and test their finished product.

Four students, Katherine Frangos, William Graves, Kris Miller and Kimberly Pund, decided to design a wheelchair that included a walker. The idea of designing a wheelchair that lifts its user out of the chair and into a standing position came from Kimberly and her father. Because the team also wanted to create something useful to areas lacking appropriate accessibility, they decided to go with the idea for the rest of the semester. According to one of its members, Graves, their product consists of two parts which are the lift component and the walker component. The lift portion is an electrically-controlled wheelchair wherein the mechanism used to lift the mechanical device’s seat controlled by a remote control.

To deploy the walker portion of the device, a scissor link mechanism and sliding track is used in the team’s current model or prototype. The sliders take the walker portion away from the wheelchair and the scissor link mechanism enables the walker to extend to its standing position. The wheelchair with a built-in seat lift and integrated walker works while following these steps:

  • Step 1 – Engage the brakes of the wheelchair.
  • Step 2 – Extend the armrests one by one.
  • Step 3 – Lock the crossbar located in the left armrest into the right armrest.
  • Step 4 – Carefully deploy the scissor link mechanism which is found in the armrests.
  • Step 5 – Activate the seat lift by using the remote control.
  • Step 6 – Hold on to the walker, represented by the armrests with the scissor link mechanism, remove it slowly and take one step at a time using the walker.

Check out these steps in action:


Their adviser, mechanical engineer professor John Starkey said that all groups go through a lot of challenges in order to come up with something that has never been created or designed by anyone before. He further stated that when the students are set on something, the project assignments become more than just a class or course; it becomes their passion and motivation to create something that can help the society. The team also joined the Thomas and Sandra Mallott Innovation Award Competition which is an event created for all mechanical engineering seniors and their product design. Graves’ team won third place and bested 54 other teams.

Graves stated that their group did a great job in staying one step ahead of the curve. Each member worked diligently as well but insufficient time to develop and improve their product even more was their greatest challenge. Nonetheless, they are proud of making it to the third place and having their product recognized as one of the most promising.

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