Stairs? No big deal ...

Stair-climbing wheelchair wins design competition

Stairs usually present an unsurmountable obstacle for any wheelchair user, but a team of Swiss engineering students may have found a solution - the Scalevo stair-climbing wheelchair. 

It resembles the sprockets of battle tanks or a miniature portable escalator. The wheelchair user reaches the bottom of the stairs, but instead of being left helpless, this seemingly cumbersome wheelchair turns into an agile all-terrain vehicle. In no time, the whole apparatus reaches the top of the stairs, folds itself back into the driving configuration and continues the journey.

This week, the invention won the first prize in the Student Design Competition organised by National Instruments.

The electrical wheelchair, developed by a team from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, runs a programme based on National Instruments’ Lab View system design software.

To create the stair-climbing tracks, the engineers chose to use rubber as it has an excellent grip on various surfaces.

The tracks automatically adjust their angle during climbing and keep the wheelchair driver in a level position. Once the wheelchair reaches the top (or the bottom) of the stairs, two small wheels are extended in the back, preventing the chair from tilting over.

On flat ground the wheelchair balances on its two large wheels, allowing the user to turn on the spot and move through tight spaces.

Once the driver reaches their destination, the tracks and the wheels can be lowered to the floor, allowing the user to safely move into another chair or get up.

The team said it wanted to provide a faster solution for wheelchair users rather than wait for towns and cities to deploy wheelchair friendly infrastructure and allow them to go to various places without concern.


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