Wheelchair Design in Developing Countries

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2007 - $32,900

This grant supports a course that gives students the chance to better the lives of others by improving wheelchairs and tricycles made in the developing world. Course lectures focus on understanding local factors, social stigmas against the disabled, and manufacturing constraints, then applying sound scientific and engineering knowledge to develop appropriate technical solutions. Throughout the course, E-Teams of students, community partners in the developing world, and experts in the wheelchair community conduct term-long projects, with the most successful projects turning into summer fellowships, allowing students to implement class projects in community partner workshops throughout the summer.

The course itself builds on a pilot course conducted in spring 2007 that asks students to undertake high-risk, high-payoff projects that local workshops and NGOs don't have the time or resources to develop themselves. Through partnering with community groups, students practice innovation guided towards commercial success while learning engineering, scientific, and cultural lessons.