Nogalian helps develop new type of wheelchair

This team of ASU seniors (now graduates) developed a new design for a wheelchair. From left: Rachel Bone, Peter Georgiou, Nogales native Christopher Miranda and Andrew Lai.

A recent Arizona State University graduate from Nogales has helped create a new type of wheelchair that aims to add convenience to the lives of people with disabilities.

Nogalian Christopher Miranda, who just graduated from ASU in biomedical engineering, and three other students developed an elevating wheelchair that raises its seat by 10 inches, through pneumatic gas springs that are similar to those in an office chair.

It’s based on a simple idea, but the concept didn’t occur to the students until they each tried getting around campus in a wheelchair for a day.

“It’s not until you spend a day in a wheelchair that you realize it is an extension of you as a person,” said Miranda, who graduated cum laude and will enter ASU’s master’s program in biomedical engineering next fall.

“Your height has been reduced, and you’re always looking up at people, and trying to reach things like the credit card slot on a vending machine, or a shelf in a store or a counter in a coffee shop,” he said.

Team member Peter Georgiou, an ASU graduate in supply chain management, says he didn’t realize how important it was to be able to speak eye-to-eye with another person until he could no longer do it. He felt a sense of social inequity as others looked down to speak with him or avoided looking at him entirely.

Miranda and Georgiou, along with Andrew Lai and Rachel Bone, comprise a team they call PACR. They created their prototype through ASU’s InnovationSpace program, a multidisciplinary product development course that places senior-level students in business, industrial design, engineering and graphic design on a team and asks them to create a product with market value that serves a societal need.

The PACR team has been chosen as finalists in the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, which provides funding, office space and training for students to explore their innovations. They hope to bring their wheelchair, called UP, to market next year.

There are “standing wheelchairs” on the market, but the chairs are bulky, heavy and expensive, costing about $10,000, Georgiou said. They require a person to lean back and crank the seat forward. This new chair allows a person to press a button to lift or lower the seat, and it will sell for about $3,500.

They will produce the wheelchair in different color and customization options, with coordinating T-shirts, backpacks and hats, to give it a brand identity. Bone has also produced a video to market the product on their website. Learn more at www.upwheelchair.com.

(Submitted by Sarah Auffret of Arizona State University Media Relations.)

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