Wheelchair Technology Gains National Recognition

By: Madison Brunner

Wheelchair Technology Gains National RecognitionA life-changing wheelchair technology created by Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recently gained national recognition at the Blackwood Design Awards in Dundee, Scotland.

HERL director Dr. Rory Cooper won the “Best New Concept” award for the Mobility Enhancement Robotic Wheelchair (MEBot), a device that allows navigation over curbs and challenging terrain. The MEBot impacts independent living for disabled individuals by assisting in real life situations; redistributing chair’s weight to help keep it balanced when going up or down hills.

The Blackwood Design Awards recognize brilliant, life-changing designs from all over the world. Judges were extremely impressed with the level of research involved and the functionality of the MEBot’s design. The MEBot was designed by wheelchair users, for wheelchair users. Blackwood Design judges valued the role of personal experience in the design process, as many HERL designers and engineers use power chairs.

“It is extremely gratifying to have the very innovative work of our team members recognized with this award,” Cooper said. “The MEBot sets a new standard for powered wheelchair mobility, and demonstrates what can be achieved when persons with disabilities, engineers and clinicians work together in concert.”

The prestigious award comes just two months after the MEBot competed in Cybathlon, a competition for assistive technology in Geneva, Switzerland. The award is bringing national recognition to the MEBot and HERL’s engineers and designers. Researchers are exploring commercial partnerships, and new manufacturers have expressed interest in the design.