There are lots of electric wheelchairs on the market, but they all share one characteristic – they’re expensive.
Innovative technologies should be presented as a useful contribution to society, not to maximise profits.
I have often wondered if we can build an electric wheelchair, with all the functions of an expensive model, as cheaply as possible.
We, the students in the Department of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering, City University of Hong Kong, have proved we can – with the Transformable Wheelchair. This multifunctional piece of technology can be extended horizontally and vertically, making life much easier for users.
A vertical transformation can raise wheelchair users high enough to reach objects without assistance.
This wheelchair is an improvement on existing wheelchair models, and it is cheaper.
The idea for the design took root when I was watching a taxi driver do nothing to help a wheelchair user that was trying to get into his cab. In the end, the wheelchair user gave up and had to find alternative transport, or another more helpful taxi driver.
As an engineering student, I asked, “Is there any wheelchair that enables users to get into a taxi or private car easily?”
A few days later, I received an email from the university regarding a competition about innovative technology. One of the categories was about generating a solution to help people with physical challenges. My wheelchair idea seemed relevant. The university encourages students to make their own inventions and discoveries. I formed a team of outstanding students from various departments and colleges.
A diverse team meant we could quickly put together the plan for the Transformable Wheelchair.
The advice from our professors, on how to use computational stress analysis and simulation, definitely improved the overall design.
We won the silver award, and the organisers decided to fund our idea to turn it into a product. We hope to be able to finish the prototype by the end of this year.
Entrepreneurship is a hot topic in Hong Kong right now, with plenty of support given to start-ups.
The Innovation and Technology Venture Fund offers assistance to start-ups from its HK$2 billion fund.
There are lots of opportunities for teenagers to implement their ideas.
Your ideas don’t have to be Earth-shattering ones either.
Something small that you might have seen or experienced in life can serve as an excellent starting point for your final product.
My advice: be observant. Go out there to experience as much as you can, and you too can make an impact on society.