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Setting the wheels in motion

[Whee-Bike team]
The Whee-Bike project team included Jane Shui, Com'16, Andrew Breslin, Sc'17, Bryce Lomfield, Sc'17, Thiago De Oliveira, Sc'17, Daniel Jones, Sc'17, Callum O'Shaughnessy, Sc'17, Hayden Provias, Sc'17, Jeremie Jollivet, Sci'17, and Korrah Bland, Sc'17, (back row, left to right); Sam Milner, Sc'17, Oda Al-anizi, Artsci'18 and Razvan Vulcu, Com'16. (University Communications)

Oda Al-anizi (Artsci’18) has dreamed for years of a better way to get around in his wheelchair. Public transportation has never really granted him the freedom he desires and a specialized motor vehicle is out of the question because of various obstacles, most notably cost.

[Whee-Bike]
An early prototype of the Whee-Bike (Supplied Photo)

As he saw more and more electric bikes and scooters on the road, Mr. Al-anizi wondered if a similar device for wheelchair users might be the answer. He envisioned driving his wheelchair onto a motorized vehicle that would help him get to his destinations more quickly and efficiently.

“I really believe there’s a spot in the market for a device like this,” Mr. Al-anizi says. “For people like me who want to go to work or go to school, it’s too complicated. My hope is that this device is considered an e-bike so you’re not going to need a driver’s licence or insurance and there will be no gas costs. It will be extremely cost effective.”

Mr. Al-anizi reached out to Queen’s Innovation Connector (QIC) in January 2015 to make that idea a reality. QIC connected the student with Enactus Queen’s, a student group dedicated to using entrepreneurial action to transform lives and shape a more sustainable world.

Queen's Innovation Connector

Jane Shui (Com’16) and Razvan Vulcu (Com’16), co-chairs of Enactus Queen’s, were supportive of Mr. Al-anizi’s vision. The co-chairs formed Whee-Bike along with Callum O’Shaughnessy (Sc’17) and Thiago De Oliveira (Sc’17). In addition to the executive, the project team boasts a team of dedicated electrical and mechanical engineering students. As the project has progressed, the team has consulted with occupational therapy and public policy students.

“Working with students from different faculties and disciplines has been a great learning opportunity,” Ms. Shui says. “We don’t get nearly enough chances in our programs to interact with people from different backgrounds.”

Over the past several months, the students have designed a vehicle that resembles a chariot. A person in a wheelchair would board the vehicle from the back using a ramp powered by Bluetooth technology. Once in, the wheelchair would be secured using Q’Straint, a system developed by a team of students and specialists at Queen’s in the 1980s. The person would then operate the electric vehicle using hand controls.

As they developed the plans, the students consulted several faculty advisors including Dr. Ron Anderson, who researches vehicle dynamics, and Dr. Kevin Deluzio, who specializes in the biomechanics of human locomotion. The students have accessed 3D drawing software thanks to a sponsorship with Dassault Systemes and have also received financial support from QIC as part of QyourVenture and mentorship from Executive Director Greg Bavington. The team will be participating in the QIC Summer Initiative Bootcamp beginning next week as part of its QyourVenture training.

The variety of resources has given the students the support they need to apply what they have learned in the classroom over the past several years.

“For a lot of the engineering students working on this project, this is our first step outside of academia,” Mr. De Oliveira says. “It’s the first time where we’re not talking about grades, but something that’s real and going to help people. That’s amazing and great.”

The project received positive feedback during a recent Enactus regional exposition held in Mississauga. The team won an impact award and $500 during the Scotiabank Youth Empowerment Challenge, a competition that sees students develop and deliver projects that address the needs and opportunities facing youth, as it relates to education, learning skills and lifelong success.

“The award signals that the judges felt the project has the potential to have a significant impact on Oda and other youth,” Mr. Vulcu says. “Just as importantly, we received good feedback from the judges on various aspects of the project and how to polish our presentation.”

Over the summer, the students intend to assemble the prototype. They are also working on meeting the regulatory requirements set out in Ontario legislation and developing a marketing strategy.

If you are interested in learning more about the Whee-Bike Project, please email Mr. De Oliveira.