A Cardiff Metropolitan University student has won this year’s Design the Change competition with an innovative design for a new ‘smart wheel’ for wheelchair users.
After buying a wheelchair and experiencing for himself how exhausting it could be to get around in – particularly when travelling uphill – Thomas Salkeld, 23, a third-year product design BSc student, built a prototype of the motorised wheel, which can be added to most wheelchairs to provides users with assistance on uneven ground, going uphill and on long journeys. It can even be controlled from the user’s phone. He the spoke to people with spinal cord injuries people and got feedback about his design.
‘I’m ecstatic about winning the competition as designing to help people is my passion and what I wish to pursue in the future,’ Thomas said. ‘The aim of my design was to really take into consideration what the users want and the problems they face every day in regards to their mobility in a wheelchair, then applying my engineering, design, prototyping and technology skills that were necessary.
‘The aesthetics were designed to be functional but also pleasing to the eye, allowing the users to be proud of the product on their wheelchairs,’ he continued.
The Design for Change competition, which is now in its second year, was set up by law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, which supports people with spinal cord injuries. The competition invites UK-based university students to design a product aimed at improving the lives of people with a spinal cord injury.Thomas’s design won him a £3,000 prize, with an additional £2,000 being awarded toCardiff Metropolitan University. Victoria Oliver, head of the spinal injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: ‘We were blown away by the quality of the entries this year and it’s fantastic to see how much research went into everyone’s designs. A spinal cord injury is a life changing event that makes even the most mundane of tasks time-consuming, and innovative designs and products can really help make the world more accessible to the 50,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK. Thomas’s design showed real awareness of the challenges facing those with a spinal cord injury who use a wheelchair and he went to great lengths to make sure his Smart Wheel design was practical, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing.’