Brigham Young University’s Engineering Team 33 presented the family of Justin and Esther Jensen with the world's lightest, least expensive motorized wheelchair, made from FORMUFIT colored PVC pipe, fittings and off-the-shelf motor and control components.
The Jensen family’s two toddlers both suffer from spinal muscular atrophy, which restricts them from walking or even crawling, requiring the use of a wheelchair for mobility. The family has sought and pondered over every solution to give their children more mobility and freedom to move on their own.
“I mean, there are [powered] chairs out there, they’re just really big and heavy.” said Esther Jensen. “And expensive”, her husband added.
A group of five fifth-year engineering students from BYU presented the Jensen family with what they believe to be both the world’s lightest, and least-expensive, motorized wheelchair. Designed over a year of research and development, the chair is the result of a five-year engineering degree for the students who designed and built it.
Mark Colton, Team 33’s coach said the goal was “a lightweight, super-affordable, do-it-yourself wheelchair that anyone can put together.” Colton added “This is one of those great projects because it’s a combination of fun, interesting technical challenges, but one that also has a clear benefit to society," Colton said. "It’s super satisfying."
Most manufactured power wheelchairs can cost in the area of $10,000 and since the Jensen family’s split-level home won't accommodate a 300-lb. motorized wheelchair, their insurance voids coverage and a manual wheelchair is too physically challenging for a toddler to use.
For the frame, Team 33 used 1/2 in. FORMUFIT PVC pipe and fittings all in Blue color to give the chair a finished appearance. The seat, electronics, motors and control components are all off-the-shelf solutions that are available online or from local hardware stores.
The team is working to create a plan, parts list and design for others to create an accessible, easy to build, and easy to operate, motorized wheelchair solution on their website openwheelchair.org.
The Open Wheelchair project's goal is to bring an financially easy motorized wheelchair solution to the world so anyone can experience the joy of mobility; no matter their physical state or economic status.