Hacking Wheelchairs for Urbanity


Yoni Segal and 2 OthersJules Gouvin-Moffat
Sam Daitzman
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At the beginning of this studio, we talked to someone who uses a wheelchair and asked what problems they face in using it. Due to the unfortunate lack of innovation in the wheelchair industry, there are many.

Our group wanted to create a multi-purpose, easy-to-use canopy shield for protection from the elements. Originally, we also wanted to integrate this with a Pico-Projector, which would allow the user to have their own personal movie theater or display useful information. This was the impetus for the idea of a rotating rain canopy, which would double as a heads-up display. After some negative feedback, we scrapped the HUD. The rotating canopy remained because we thought it was a stronger idea, and it also got positive reception from someone who uses a wheelchair.

The first major design problem we encountered in this project was the hinge. Our dilemma stemmed from the need for a mechanism that both allowed it to rotate freely when needed, but also be stationary when the user wasn't actively rotating it. At first, we researched the type of hinge used in baby strollers, which eventually became our inspiration.

We needed to figure out how many positions the pieces actually had to lock in place at. We constructed an all-cardboard mockup to get a sense for the size of the pieces and how many positions we'd need. We decided that 15˚ intervals made a lot of sense since they'd give us a total of 12 positions in a full rotation.

Next, we needed a mechanism to lock the hinge pieces in place when they weren’t in motion. The first hinge model was comprised of two ridged discs that locked in with each other. We experimented with different numbers of ridges, but found that our original number worked best. 24 ridges (12 up and 12 down) with 15˚ intervals worked extremely well in our simulations. The ridges turned out to be too large, so we sized them down and reduced the thickness profile. We also added four holes to the disc for attachment, but decided to omit them since they made the piece look ugly.

After that, we had the idea to add a third, double-sided disc in the center with a spring gently compressing the three. We also added a slot in one of the top pieces for a wooden dowel. We also designed a piece to slide around the wooden dowel and wheelchair back. The piece has two parts per side, which screw together.

Then we experimented with mechanical simulations of three discs. Once we were happy with the way they worked and fit we tried to print them. Because of some issues with our 3D printer, we were unable to successfully make the center disc. Unfortunately, this issue persisted until the end of our project.

Another major challenge was finding a material to join the two hinges and support the fabric. We were going to use steel coil, but it broke too easily. Luckily, we found a thin material called spring steel, which was better at holding its shape reliably.

We had to add small slots to all three hinge pieces to accommodate the spring steel. Testing the fit led us to find that it worked, so we started to shift our attention to the actual canopy. We decided we wanted three fabric panels to completely encompass the user. After we learned how to iron and sew, we made the first prototype out of a dark red fabric. This was surprisingly difficult due to the curvature of the panels. We decided to reduce the number of panels to two, with one being larger. This way it was easier to sew, but still large enough to offer decent protection. Following this prototype’s completion, we found a water-repellent, translucent material for the final canopy. We sewed the final canopy fabric together using this material. This model was much neater and better-shaped, since we were much more familiar with what we were doing.

At this point we decided that wood was not the best material for the rods on either side. We opted for stylish blue aluminum rods. Not only are they stronger than wood and water-resistant, they look much more modern. We adjusted the base attachment pieces and the slot in the hinge to fit these rods, then printed the pieces out. Again, we were unable to print the center pieces simply due to issues with the printer. However, we were able to put the rest of the project together and test it!


Kate Reed and 2 OthersStefano Pagani
Nathaniel Tong

We created a system that allows the user of a wheel chair to go faster. Instead of moving in the wheel chair by pushing the wheels, our mechanism allows the user to use a rowing motion that allows the person to go faster and exercise different muscles. We used the free wheel mechanism and made different attachments to the free wheel that would enable it to snap onto the wheel easily and be ready to use. 


Yoni Segal and 2 OthersSam Daitzman
Jules Gouvin-Moffat

The wheelchair canopy protects anyone that needs a wheelchair from rain, snow, and other elements. It folds back to stay out of the way when not in use. It has a ratchet mechanism that allows the user to position it however far up or down they need, and its modular design allows it to be quickly attached to any standard wheelchair.

When we spoke to a person who uses a wheelchair, one of the issues we heard about was weather, and how to avoid it. Since two hands are needed for full control of a wheelchair, holding an umbrella is very inconvenient. Our project frees both hands without increasing the width profile of the wheelchair, so it can still fit in an urban environment. The project would enable any wheelchair user to get through the weather without inconveniencing them or complicating their movement.


Cooper Grace and Samuel Zintl
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When we were initially thinking about all of the possibilities for the studio, we decided to to pursue the idea of a rail system that would be able to support attatchments such as a phone/tablet holder, connected to the armrest of the wheelchair. This would give the person in the wheel chair the ability to watch a movie or to read a book or a news article while eating or drinking or just relaxing. After deciding to work on this idea, we began to brainstorm about the possible methods of attaching a phone or tablet holder and other attachments easily and efficiently. While thinking about the different ways to complete this, we ruminated about making a rail attachment with a sliding mechanism so that the gadgets could be slid on and off of easily. When looking for examples of this system already used in other industries, we found that for the most part, they were used on advanced weaponry as a method of attaching a scope or other gear. After looking at the designs of the other uses and at the drawbacks of this method, we decided it was the best way that we had found of attaching accessories to the wheel chair and we began to look at possible designs for the rail, and for the arm accessory itself. While brainstorming about what the arm would look like, we saw a couple other products with similar methods and ideas behind them that Andrew had found and we went from there. We decided that the phone holder should have two armlike pieces connected by a ball socket for more stability, flexibility and support, so as I set to work on the ball joint and the arms, Cooper set to work on the rails. We also decided that since we were using the rail system, it would be great to come up with more than one product  that we could attach using the rail system. When initially talking with Sayeed about what he thought would be the best attachments for the wheelchair, he mentioned that he didn't really have a good cup holder either so we decided to try and produce one that would slide on and off easily using the rail system.

When working on the ball joint, we ran into many problems with the designs. Initially, we had not fully understood the capacity of the 3D printer and we had created the ball joints and the arm together and was planning to print all of it but upon realizing that the printer could not probably not print an object that big and it would take days even if it could. After realizing that would be a huge waste of time and effort, we changed the design so that we were just printing the joints, and the arms would be attached to the joint and made out of another material. After designing and printing this, we discovered that the ball and socket were far to big. When looking back at the design, we realized that the socket wall was far to thick and was a waste of plastic on top of making it impossible to fit the ball inside of it. After making the wall a bit thinner,  attempted reprinting the new iteration.

When trying out the revised ball joint, we were surprised to find that the opening for the socket was still to small for the ball joint to be fit in, so we decided to consult a coach about the problem. After discussing it with them, we realized that even though we had made the walls of the socket thinner, we still needed to make notches on the top and sides of the socket. This would enable the socket walls to bend a bit while the ball was being pushed into the socket and then the socket walls would snap back into place once the ball was inside the socket. Also, after discussing the setup of the arm, we realized that we had several major issues regarding the weight of the phone case and the support provided by the ball joint. After brainstorming ways to give the arms more support, Cooper and I agreed that although we initially thought that the ball joints would be enough to support the arm, we realized that a rigid joint would be more supportive and structurally sound, in addition to being easier to print. We then changed the Fusion design so that the rods could be screwed into the bottom of the ball joint and and changed the socket walls to try out our new method.

While trying to assemble the new joint, we were dismayed to find that although the new system for the ball and socket worked much better, the ball was still far to big and as a result, one of the socket walls snapped as it was being assembled. Despite this, the system with the metal rods and the rigid joint both worked which left us with only the ball joint to perfect. We immediately went back into Fusion and fixed the problem with the ball joint, and decided to try out luck again. 

After the new design finish printing, we were excited to discover that the ball joint worked perfectly and we began to set up the mostly finished arm along with the rail. After this, we decided to focus mostly on the iPhone case and we agreed that instead of making an adjustable case, we should just make a case on Fusion that could be dimensioned differently depending on the device the user wanted to put in the case. However, after looking back at the design after thinking we were finished, we realized that the case lacked holes for charging and the audio jack. After adding this to the design, we printed the case, which worked almost perfectly although the dimensions were a bit to small for an iPhone 5s, so an iPod Touch was used instead. As we began to assemble however, we soon realized that the method of attaching the arm to the rail was flawed in the sense that the arm had to be unscrewed in two places and in general, the overall setup was far to complicated. We decided to glue the rod into the sliding mechanism so that the sliding mechanism could have a wider range of motion and so the arm could be removed more easily. After doing this, we put the arm together and attached it to the chair, complete with an iPod touch along with the cup holder on the other side!


Cooper Grace and Samuel Zintl
1 / 10

For our project, we decided to try and ease the life for people in wheel chairs by making a modular rail system for wheelchairs. The rail system was designed to be open source and as a standard so many different people with different needs and wheelchairs can use this system. We made 2 great attachments but many more could be made. Ours comes with phone/tablet stand so that they could read a book or watch a movie without having to hold their phone or tablet while doing so. This would also enable them to eat or drink or propel themselves around while listening to music, FaceTiming with someone, or just to have easy access to their phone throughout day to day life. The problem we were trying to solve was the lack of an easy attachment system for gadgets to improve their lives, along with the problem of having to keep ones phone in their lap while propelling themselves which could lead it to fall on the floor and break or to get lost. This is important because we realized on the first day of the studio that despite the huge demand for wheelchair gadgets, there are few inexpensive simple luxuries that most people in wheelchairs might find very useful and would improve their lives greatly. 


Nuradin Bhatti and 2 OthersMohammad Sayed
Pablo Yanes

The main idea of this studio was about Wheelchair Hacking so my group we got a idea about a deck / tray. The idea of this project was about making the person using the wheelchair have easier life on his wheelchair. We picked the desk / tray for our project because how wheel chairs do not have a real easy way to have access with a desk to write or a place to eat. it also show about how hard life people in wheel chair have and we want to help them make the usual life easy for them.. The problem of the tray/ desk was that we have a limited space in the chair and we do not want to disturb the space. But our group we mostly thought how baby carriages are build in a limited space. When we had all the piece we needed to start pasting with glue but this is what gave us the must problem. This was the problem because how small some of the pieces that we had we needed to put it all together  so this made it be hard to glue and for different layers that we had. But with few clamps and working together we over came with problem. This project was important because it makes some of the wheelchair people have be solved for them.