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Innovation

Off-road wheelchair debuts in US with help of Cool Idea! award

The third award-winner in rapid-prototyping company Proto Lab's ongoing "Cool Idea!" program given to San Francisco non-profit Whirlwind Wheelchair's innovative wheelchair design.
Written by Beth Carter, Contributing Editor on

The RoughRider wheelchair was recently announced as the third award-winner in a contest run by prototyping company Proto Labs. The program, called "Cool Idea!" is an open call for designers to submit their current projects to be considered for up to $100,000 in FirstCut rapid injection molded parts.

The contest was started to help reward innovative thinking and make good ideas transform into real products. Winners can use the parts that they win for prototyping, design, testing or even the initial product run. In short, these fully-functioning prototypes will be there to turn their cool new product into a reality.

The RoughRider was developed by Whirlwind Wheelchair International, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that is "dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities in the developing world while also promoting sustainable local economic development in the process." The goal is to provide high-quality wheelchairs to those who need them, wherever they might be.

Whirlwind's flagship project, the RoughRider, is an off-road wheelchair designed to be durable and inexpensive:

"The RoughRider is designed to handle rugged terrain with ease. It has been proven in over 25 countries by thousands of riders who live in the worst of conditions and need the best of chairs. Riders use it as a super-durable daily-use chair or as a backup when life calls for off-pavement adventures."

Though the RoughRider was developed to be used developing countries, the Cool Idea! award helped the company plan an extensive redesign before their US debut. The win provided the new side panels that the company needed for the launch.

The chair is customizable, and includes a long wheelbase for stability, heavy-duty casters in front and mountain bike wheels in back and a five-position rear axle for balance.

Most of the parts can be easily found in countries worldwide, as they are largely bicycle parts. The next features to be added are push-button wheel release and new anti-tipping technology.

Though most Americans don't need to traverse rough terrain on a daily basis, this chair will help provide access to places that came with restrictions before, like beaches, trails, gardens and anywhere that standard wheels simply don't cut it.

Also on SmartPlanet: Moving-- or rowing-- wheelchair design in a new direction

[Core 77 Design]
Images: Whirlwind Wheelchair International

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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