Projects at NuVu usually come from students however this project was a request directly from Javier Leal at Mas Libertad Menos Barreras. He asked one group of students to design and fabricate a wheelchair for a caregiver to help transport an older or heavier child to the restroom when only one caregiver is at home. The chair was meant to do three things, fit down a narrow hallway, raise and lower to help with transfers and go over the toilet. The students spent many months working on this project, brainstorming different ideas, putting it together, taking it apart and reassembling it in Monterrey. This device was designed and fabricated at NuVu in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The students received feedback at Instituto Nuevo Amanecer from kids and physical therapists and then reworked their projects at Monterrey, Tec.
I am submitting this entry on behalf of Stefano Pagani and Amit Nir. Stefano is a full-time student at NuVu Studio and Amit attended NuVu Studio for a trimester. I am a "Coach" (what we call teachers) at NuVu, a full-time innovation school for middle and high school students in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Last winter, we worked with an organization in Monterrey, Mexico called Instituto Nuevo Amanecer to create devices and wearables to help kids with Cerebral Palsy. Javier Leal of Mas Libertad Menos Barreras and I ran the studio called "Easing Cerebral Palsy". The students spent two, two-week studios working full-time on this project at NuVu and then travelled to Monterrey for a week to work with kids with Cerebral Palsy. While in Monterrey, the studio collaborated with students at Monterrey Tec to progress their projects.
Stefano and Amit wrote the following:
We were faced with the task to create a mobility device that would assist the caretaker to maneuver their child around the house. A problem that occurs with many older, heavier children with cerebral palsy is that their caretaker may not be able to pick them up to take them to the bathroom, shower, table, etc. As a result, the person may need to spend the whole day lying in bed even if they need to go to the bathroom. Our device seeks to make it easier for a caretaker to lift, rotate, and position their child with cerebral palsy in different locations within the home, especially in the bathroom. Additionally, our device was tailored to the requirements of Monterrey, Mexico, which demand low cost and high flexibility.
Our mobility device is designed to be able to maneuver in narrow confined spaces and to raise and lower to different heights ranging from 45 cm to 75 cm off the ground. To raise and lower the device, the caretaker can easily crank a rope and pulley system which is attached to the seat along the backrest. In addition, the mobility device is designed to back up and wheel directly over a toilet seat without making the person get off the device. Furthermore, the device is waterproof and can go into the shower. The seat has a hole in its center allowing the person to use the bathroom in the device and allow water to flow through while taking a shower. Additionally, our mobility device has a high back to be able to strap a child in if necessary. The materials we used to make the mobility device are simple, cheap, and can be found in numerous places. The simple 8020 frame can be affordably manufactured. Other parts such as the wheels, pulleys, rope, nylon back, and seat cushion are readily available at hardware stores if replacement or repair is ever necessary. This means that our device will be cheap, accessible, and easy to fix if parts break. Our mobility device is important because it will aid the caretaker and ease the life of someone with cerebral palsy.
The crank to lift and lower the chair was the most innovative part of the chair. It included a rotary dashpot inside of a ratchet system that allowed the seat to be lifted easily and slowly lowered. The ratchet was originally 3D printed but because of the weight, we ended up getting help water-jetting the system.
Uplift was such a well-engineered and functional solution to a specific problem.
We responded to its human-centered process and how it was so need-driven, and engineered as a functional prototype.