Senior Design Journey 2019: Reimagining Wheelchair Design, Part 1

One of the biggest debates in the world of wheelchair propulsion is push vs. pull, and one Senior Design team is looking to take this question to the next level of testing.

Senior biomedical engineering majors Mitchell DuBuc, James Welch, and Alex Draper, under the advisement of Professor Krystyna Gielo-Perczak, are putting a new type of wheelchair wheel to the test. Rowheels and Numotion, two companies which design wheelchair wheels with a pull system, have passed laboratory tests and applications, but this Senior Design team is testing these wheels in real-life applications.

DuBuc, who is in a wheelchair himself, got interested in the project through personal experience.

“I got interested in it because I’m in a wheelchair and that lends itself to me being interested in ambulatory advancements that come out,” DuBuc said. “I was just talking with Dr. Gielo-Perczak one day about push vs. pull, because that’s a big interest of hers, and how in what aspect the human body is stronger. I had learned about these wheels a while back, very briefly, so I looked them up again and found out that they were still pushing forward with the wheels, so I brought it to her attention, and we went from there.”

In a traditional wheelchair, the user pushes to go forward and pulls to go backward. In the new pull wheelchair, users do the complete opposite and pull to go forward and push to go backward. According to DuBuc, in push wheels, the more conventional format, some users suffer from shoulder impingement from the push movement.

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