BME Undergrads Make Skating Wheelchair for Hockey Fan, Other Devices for Disabled

Kuppy Sampale, Eric Blatt and Keigo Kawaji demonstrate their ice skating wheelchair.

A wheelchair on ice is just one of several novel prototypes that biomedical engineering undergraduates presented during a Nov. 2 demonstration of projects designed for the capstone course BME 260: Devices for People with Disabilities.

“It really feels like you’re gliding or ice skating when you are using the chair,” said Kuppy Sampale, one of the wheelchair’s engineers.

A three-member student team created the adapted wheelchair--complete with hockey pad bumpers for collision protection and a “fun appearance”--for a Carolina Hurricanes Fan Club member who is also a quadriplegic. The wheelchair skating design team, which also included Eric Blatt and Keigo Kawaji, consulted with a wheelchair expert and conducted their own videotaped crash testing to ensure the safety of their design.

A second team created an assistive chair enabling a seven-year old boy with TAR syndrome to bathe on his own for the first time. TAR syndrome is a condition characterized by skeletal abnormalities including the absence of portions of both arms.

Lenny Slutsky with the bath chair he engineered along with team members for BME 260: Devices for People with Disabilities.

“He couldn’t reach the top of his head, his stomach, or other body parts in order to wash,” said team member Aaron Carlson.

Carlson, along with Bobby Buechler and Lenny Slutsky, created a bath chair out of PVC pipes, including strategically mounted artificial loofahs for soaping up and two hand sprayers that turn on and off at the push of an easy-to-reach button for rinsing.

“He thinks it’s magic,” Slutsky said of the boy.

Student groups choose their projects each semester from among a dozen design problems posed by people in the community with a particular need, according to assistant research professor of biomedical engineering Larry Bohs, who teaches the course each fall. Each design group is allotted $500 to complete their project, which must represent a product that would not otherwise be available.

Other prototypes on display included a music-blasting “Rockin’ Chair” to soothe a teenager with cerebral palsy, a wheelchair ramp assist device for a woman with cerebral palsy, a lawn care cart for an avid gardener who relies on a wheelchair, and an automatic rocker for children who live at Hilltop Home, a residential facility for kids with disabilities.