BYU students design lightweight, low-cost motorized wheelchairs to help two young boys

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PROVO, Utah -- Some engineering students at Brigham Young University gave two boys a chance at a more normal life Thursday when they presented the children with a specially designed wheelchair, and a second one is on the way.

Tanner and Skyler both have spinal muscular atrophy, which is a degenerative disease that affects mobility. The brothers get tired from using manual wheelchairs, and motorized chairs are heavy and expensive.

After hearing about the family’s struggles, the engineering capstone program at BYU decided to design a lightweight, affordable motorized wheelchairs specifically designed for kids.

“It made it really easy because a lot of the wheelchairs, they’re hundreds of pounds just for the lightest ones, so this is very maneuverable,” said Justin Esther, the father of the two boys. “You can take it up and down stairs. You can do anything with it. Take it anywhere in the car.”

The team gave the family one wheelchair Thursday, and they are almost finished with a second. The wheelchair cost less than $495 to build, which organizers said makes it the world's least expensive motorized wheelchair.

4 comments

  • Tim Gunsay

    This wheelchair is open hardware so anyone in need can download the plans and parts lists for free to make their own. The wheelchair plans are scaleable for ages 2.5 to 6 years. As the child grows, the wheel chair can be expanded by adding longer PVC pipes. Plans and the parts list for this wheelchair can be found at http://www.openwheelchair.org.

  • bob

    Now that is something the world sorely needs. My son has had 2 custom wheelchairs so far, and they cost $12,000 and $15,000 apiece. Just for a chair with motors. It’s insane.

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