Nowadays, a lot of unique designs and extraordinary transformations have happened to the standard wheelchair. This is to cater to different and specific needs. One of the most unique wheelchairs that has been created and designed especially for a unique person is in Houston – they call it the rowing wheelchair.
Students of Rice University have been dedicating four years of their time, effort, and knowledge in building a special wheelchair for a special Houston teenager named Pedro. Pedro, a 15-year-old patient at Shriners Hospital for Children, was born with a disorder named arthrogryposis.
Arthrogryposis multiplex congenita, or AMC, is a congenital disorder that is characterized by joint contractures that can be seen in two or more areas in the body. A baby born with this is said to have abnormal fibrosis (formation of excess fibrous connective tissue) of the muscle tissue in the joints which then causes muscle shortening. This shortening of the muscles results in the inability to passively extend or flex the affected joint or joints.
Because of this disorder, Pedro’s joint movements are severely limited. His condition prevents him to flex or pull his arms in at the elbows and his wrists are locked in a rotated or pivoted position. Because of his joint contractures, he cannot operate a normal or standard wheelchair.
Michaela Dimoff, a bioengineering major student and a junior at Rice University, stated that she and her team, the Wheelin’ and Dealin’ Wheelchair team, is creating a unique wheelchair that is specially designed for Pedro. Because Pedro cannot efficiently use a normal wheelchair since it will require him to grip the wheels, Dimoff and her group designed and created a new device called the rowing wheelchair.
The rowing wheelchair is made with push-forward paddles, instead of the standard armrests. In this unique and special device Pedro will place his hands inside fabric loops and then he will push in a rowing motion for him to move. Since Pedro’s arms cannot be flexed or pulled in, the Wheelin’ and Dealin’ Wheelchair team ingeniously made those paddles spring-loaded so that they come back automatically after being pushed without the need of pulling them.
The rowing wheelchair was designed and built at Rice University’s OEDK or Oshman Engineering Design Kitchen. The design team included:
- Michaela Dimoff, a bioengineering major
- Jared Elinger, a mechanical engineering major
- Christina Petlowany, a mechanical engineering major
- David Smith, a materials science and nanoengineering major
- Reed Thornburg, senior art history major
- All junior students of Rice University
The students met with Pedro several weeks after taking the project. They carefully took measurements on his movements and analyzed the specifics of his physical capabilities. Dimoff said that they had a long time figuring out how to design the wheelchair that would help Pedro move with ease.
Because of great motivation and determination, the team was able to build the rowing wheelchair. Though they have yet to complete the finishing touches and final polishing, the students expect that they will be releasing their mobility device at the end of this month.
This new rowing wheelchair in Houston is something that people across the globe will marvel at because it will not only be helping Pedro. In the near future, this will be a technological device that will help many people with limited physical capabilities.