A solar-powered prototype of a wheelchair with retractable solar panels was the winner of the Change My World in One Minute organized by the 2012 World Cerebral Palsy Day. The project was conceived by a student from the University of Virginia School of Engineering.
“Our team worked closely together to come up with a solution for this challenging engineering problem in a very limited time,” said graduate student Dennis L. Waldron III, a member of the U.Va. team. “Although not required for the competition, we chose to build a prototype to test our design, and refined or completely changed certain aspects as we built, sometimes multiple times.”
The team got inspiration from the design of retractable roofs on convertible cars. Using strong and light materials and custom-fabricated solar panels, the wheelchair can operate for over four hours at a speed of 5mph on a fully charged battery, a performance improvement of more than 40 percent over batteries. They say the wheelchair can run indefinitely at a speed of 1 mph on solar power alone, without using the battery.
The panels can harvest solar energy even on cloudy days. On sunny days, it serves a dual purpose: power generation and shade. Standard features such as seatbelt and footrest are also included. To meet the user’s digital needs, USB power outlets are provided to charge devices such as cell phones, GPS navigation, tablet computers, etc.
An invention disclosure has been filed through the U.Va. Licensing and Ventures Group.
Worldwide 17 million people live with cerebral palsy, one of several diseases that seriously impair motor conditions. World Cerebral Palsy Day was launched in 2012 to stimulate creativity on how to make the world a better place for those affected by the condition.
Source: Solar Feeds