Monday, November 30, 2009
The RoughRider Wheelchair is a redesign of the traditional wheelchair, targeted specifically for use in areas of rugged terrain and poor infrastructure as is common in developing nations. In Third-World countries, wheelchairs are very hard to obtain; in fact, only one percent of the twenty million people in need own a wheelchair. The one percent who do most likely have second-hand hospital wheelchairs which are meant only for indoor use. These break easily outdoors and are usually very difficult and expensive to repair.
Ralf Hotchkiss, who began redesigning wheelchairs after he became disabled in a motorcycle accident in college, became aware of the need for a wheelchair better-suited for the rugged terrain of many third world countries. He co-founded Whirlwind Wheelchair International with Peter Pfaelzer, a fellow engineering design professor in San Francisco. Their goal was to design sturdy wheelchairs that could be easily built and repaired in developing countries from locally available materials. For example, the chair's frame is made from thin-walled steel tubing, which is available almost anywhere. The back wheels are bicycle tires, and the front wheels are Hotchkiss’ own design of flexible rubber, which can be molded in tire retread shops. The RoughRider is designed to be as cheap as possible without compromising quality, making the chair about $150-$175.
In designing the RoughRider, Hotchkiss ran into "special challenges" because the bodies and abilities of the people who need the equipment vary, therefore the Rough Rider is designed to be adaptable. The width is adjustable but meant to be much narrower than the hospital model, allowing the rider to reach directly downwards to grasp the hand rims, rather than over an armrest, and so be able to push more strongly. It is also designed to be maneuverable on rough terrain and is therefore 10 pounds lighter than the traditional model. It has a longer wheel base to prevent tipping forward, which is the biggest hazard to wheelchair riders, and has wide, flexible front wheels so as to not get caught in cracks in the road.
So far, Whirlwind Wheelchair has established 50 shops in 35 countries, where they provide on-site training in wheelchair assembly, production, and fitting. They not give away many of the chairs, but their shops provide jobs for the very people they are supplying. In addition, the RoughRider Wheelchair is not patented, therefore there is no cost for its design, and it is constantly being adapted and changed according to users' needs.
Wheels of Change (Video)
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Public transportation infrastructure is rapidly becoming outdated and overworked because it can't keep up with the growing numbers and demands of passengers. In New York City, Bus stops have elevated chairs or benches altogether. Many commuters accept this as a fact of life, something that can't be changed. Sit Projects have proven, rather simply that the issue can be improved by simply placing chairs under various bus stops in the city.
"Pragmatically, this arose from the pressing need for an array of benches/seats at bus and subway stops within New York City’s public transportation system. By installing our atypical seating compositions, we encourage people to contemplatively stop, consider their purpose, possibly sit and engage with other local commuters over the curiosity of their current placement."
Sit projects proves that a solution doesn't always have to be perfect to work. They have, if nothing else, opened a dialogue for New York City bus riders about the problem at hand.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Hydrogen cell cars are cars that use hydrogen as a fuel source. Unlike other “environmental cars” like hybrids (which are a combination of batteries and a gasoline fueled engine) hydrogen fueled cars offer zero emissions. The only bye product of the car is water. By having zero emissions, hydrogen cell cars are considered one of the possible alternative fuels of the future, but they are already here. In 2005 Honda leased the first commercial hydrogen car to a family in Redondo Beach, California. Being in the public market is an important step into hydrogen cell cars becoming more common on the road but there are two main problems that need to be overcome first. One is the cost of hydrogen cars and the other problem is that there is no sizable infrastructure laid out yet (fuel stations, refineries for producing hydrogen, and the transportation of hydrogen). At the moment, the cost for a hydrogen car is quite expensive with a Shelby Cobra costing $149,000. Hydrogen fuel is also expensive; at the moment hydrogen cells can cost as much as one to twenty dollars a kilo. Also, there is not a sizable infrastructure in place yet. At the moment California has the most at 13 (as of 2004), but plan to have around 170 by 2010.
Hydrogen Cars. Hydrogencarsnow.com. October 2009. <http://www.hydrogencarsnow.com/>.
Llanos, Miguel. “Hydrogen cars ready to roll — for a price.” Msnbc.com. October 2009. <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4563676/>.
Hydrogen Link. Hydrogen Link Denmark Association. October 2009. <http://www.hydrogenlink.net/eng/>.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Land Glider Video