Wheelchair that can climb stairs wins Scottish design award

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The MEBot can do things that no other chair can do

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2nd February 2017 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

A wheelchair that can climb stairs has won a major Scottish design competition that aims to find new ways to improve the lives of people with disabilities.

The MEBot, a robotic-powered, six wheel wheelchair has been designed to tackle both kerbs and steps, and challenging terrains, such as icy and slippery surfaces.

The chair scooped the Best New Concept prize at the Blackwood Design Awards held in Dundee.

Designed in Pittsburgh, USA, the MEBot was inspired by wounded, injured and ill veterans and offers much more than what is possible with current mobility devices.

While traditional power wheelchair can get stuck on difficult types of ground, MEBot uses its front and rear caster wheels to inch forward on slick surfaces. It has a seat stabilisation system which keeps the driver safely upright and also stair climbing ability – which is ultimately what set it apart from other wheelchair designs.

Rory Cooper, leader of the design team and director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories at the University of Pittsburgh, said: “We entered the Blackwood Design Awards to challenge ourselves and to bring awareness to the needs of and opportunities for those with disabilities.

“We’re very excited to have won – it’s nice to have the validation of the innovation and hard work that our team put into the MEBot.

“Ultimately, we’d like to license the MEBot to a commercial partner and see it transform the mobility and function of people with severe disabilities, and we’re very grateful to now have Blackwood’s advice and guidance.”

A second winner selected by the judges as Best New Product was GlassOuse digital glasses, which uses Bluetooth to assist those who have lost the use of their arms to operate computers, phones and televisions.

Designer Mehmet Turker entered the product all the way from China. It is worn like a pair of glasses and has been designed particularly, to help those who have suffered traumatic injuries such as brain bleeds and tumours, strokes, spinal damage and cerebral palsy, which have left them needing additional support for everyday tasks.

Turker said: “The Blackwood Design Awards is something we have heard about for years and we’re absolutely over the moon to have won the Best New Product title. We entered as we share its aim to enable disabled people to live as independently as possible through designing accessible products in a way that is pleasing to the eye.

“We’re currently designing GlassOuse 2 and are very excited for what’s to come in the future – especially now we have backing from Blackwood.”

Both winners will receive a cash prize of £2000 and professional support and guidance from Blackwood, an Edinburgh-based charity which has more than 1500 homes throughout the country, as well as advice on design development from 4c Design, and legal help from Harper MacLeod.

Fanchea Kelly, chief executive at Blackwood, added: “We were blown away by some of the entries and it was extremely difficult to choose just two, but MeBot and GlassOuse are incredibly innovative products and have the potential to be truly life-changing for those with disabilities.

“We would also like to wish all the runners up the best of luck and much continued success in their design endeavours.”