SAIT assists Paralympic athletes with prototype wheelchair
A prototype wheelchair designed by the Mechanical Engineering Technology program (MET) here at SAIT was proved to be essential for Team Canada’s wheelchair basketball teams for the 2016 Paralympic Games.
The project was started on a computer program called Solid Works, as a series of configurations.
From there, the MET program started to print different pieces of the chair in 3D, which they used as a trial and error process.
This allowed them to make mistakes in a way that wouldn’t cause them to spend more time and money than needed.
After making sure all the pieces fit together, they sent the plans down to get the final product machined. Finally, after a month and a half, the chair
SAIT’s MET program worked on this project together with Wheelchair Canada to make a basketball wheelchair with around 13 different settings.
A basketball wheelchair normally only comes with three or four adjustable parts and costs up to $4000 per chair.
While the prototype chair is too heavy for competition purposes, it’s perfect for testing its dimensions on the different athletes and the levels of performance for each setting.
This chair was hand-delivered to Canada’s wheelchair basketball team in Toronto.
Tim Huynh, who was one of the MET students that worked on the chair, describes the project as “pretty unique.”
Huynh explained that the finished prototype was able to be adjusted in ways similar to a normal chair, but in addition, “was also able to be adjusted in ways you would likely never see.”
One of these unique parts was a seat that could be adjusted to be slimmer or wider as needed.
It was because of these many different pieces that Huynh expressed his frustrations with the project at times.
While the MET program was given a chair to work off of, they quickly found that they were going to have to take the chair almost completely apart.
This chair was donated to an organization called Ultimate Wheelchair Sports and the team started from scratch.
Huynh described how there was a lot of back and forth work when it came to designing the many different parts of the chair.
“Once we got one part to work, we would find that it interfered with another part of the wheelchair,” said Huynh.
Despite these frustrations, Huynh, who comes from a kinesiology background, said he found that he really enjoyed working on this particular project.
“I love to build things,” said Huynh.
Huynh said that he would love the opportunity to hear feedback from Wheelchair Canada, and possibly be able to work on the project again to improve the prototype.
Since the program was secret up until the Paralympic Games this year, the MET program hasn’t gotten much exposure.
However, Huynh, who has worked with people with disabilities, hopes the wheelchair project will give him and the SAIT program an opportunity to work on more projects that involve adaptable sports equipment.