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June 10, 2015

By Mike Epps

Wheelchair bound people obviously have it rough. Cities and neighborhoods are not built for those without the use of their legs. Sure, there are places that will have the occasional staircase accompanied by a ramp, but getting up those ramps with nothing but your arm strength is difficult. It is for this reason, that most people in wheelchairs usually need somebody to go with them wherever they go. A new wheelchair design might change that.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the Zurich University of the Arts tasked last year’s undergraduate students with an assignment to build a functional product they could sell using all the knowledge they had at hand.

Ten students originally came together to create a machine that could smoothly carry a camera up a flight of stairs. This concept quickly evolved into a wheelchair that could climb stairs. They came up with several different versions of this wheelchair design.

One was designed to have very large wheels that could climb stairs (the larger the wheels, the more a set of stairs became like a ramp). This design made for a pretty uncomfortable ride as each step climbed resulted in a slight jolt for the driver.


(Source: Scalevo)

The second idea was drawn to have four rubber tracks on the side of the wheelchair. The rubber tracks would be tilted down to climb stairs, and move up to drive around. However, the four rubber tracks would be too heavy and complex to design.


(Source: Scalevo)

They eventually decided to combine both designs and what they created is incredible. While on flat ground, the wheelchair will balance on two wheels like a Segway. To climb stairs, two rubber tracks extend from the bottom and ride up a set of stairs like a tank. There is also a set of small wheels in the back for stability when the chair goes from flat ground to stairs or vice versa. With the two large wheels, the set of small wheels, and the bottom tracks, this cool creation can also raise the individual seated up higher.

Originally, the project (now titled Scalevo was just to have a proof of concept, but now these young engineers intend to bring it to market some time in the near future. They even added a few features like a touchscreen navigational pad and even a backup camera and lights.