Students Design and Construct Unique Bicycle-Style Wheelchair

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University mechanical engineering students are helping to design and construct a unique wheelchair made with bicycle components and powered by a lever drive propulsion system.

The lightweight JackDrive™ Wheelchair is intended to provide easy maneuverability indoors and outdoors, on any terrain, and increase the range and speed not possible with traditional wheelchairs.

Through a collaboration with JackDrive Mobility Inc., which is located in the John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex (MicaPlex) at Embry-Riddle’s Research Park, Daytona Beach Campus students are not only involved with the design and manufacturing, but also the testing of the innovative wheelchair.

“For our students, this is as close to industry experience as it can get,” said Dr. Victor Huayamave, assistant professor in Embry-Riddle’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Biomedical Systems program, and lead investigator on the project.

Using the facilities at the MicaPlex and the biomedical engineering lab at the College of Engineering, the goal is to construct 10 chairs in the next year. The College of Business also has assisted with market research.

“It is a great opportunity to learn about venture creation and how the value proposition process works when introducing a new product to the market,” said graduate student Jorge Navarro, who is working on an MBA in Aviation Management and was involved with market research, including gathering information on competition and regulatory requirements.


Co-investigator Dr. Patrick Currier, associate professor and associate chair for the Department of Mechanical Engineering, is also assisting students with the design process and helping them understand FDA requirements.

“This project will directly improve the quality of lives of many people,” added Nathan Stanton, a mechanical engineering master’s student.

The wheelchair is being designed with eight to 11 gears and will operate like a bicycle, using the same shifting components, making for easy maintenance and repairs at local bicycle shops. The patented JackDrive™ propulsion system includes two independent drive levers, or handles. To move the chair, the operator pushes and pulls the levers, similar to a bench press movement. Steering, braking and gear shifting all take place through use of the drive handles.

Use of the new chair will also provide therapeutic advantages, noted Huayamave. By engaging the large muscles in the upper–body, the push–pull motion using the handles can reduce the risk of carpel tunnel and wrist injuries, which can occur with the use of a traditional wheelchair. The chair will also be marketed to able-bodied individuals for strengthen the upper body.

“You are able to get a lot of power and high speeds with less effort,” Huayamave said.  “By implementing bike components into the design, the wheelchair drivetrain system makes it versatile for any terrain. You are able to go up a hill and change gears and it’s easier on your body.”

Students are creating 3D-printed parts for prototyping and testing. They’re helping design the wheelchair frame to project specifications and are conducting structural analysis and ensuring testing standards are met.

Alessandro Gallone, who is majoring in Mechanical Engineering and Aviation Maintenance Science, has been working on the drivetrain components that will power the chair, including the components that go into shifting gears and braking. He commented that, “from an engineering standpoint, the project combines a lot of different knowledge backgrounds into one product.”

Neil M. Peiman, CEO of JackDrive Mobility, said he appreciates the skill and commitment the Embry-Riddle students bring to the project.

“I have no doubt that through our collaboration with Embry-Riddle, we’ll produce the top performing, No. 1 wheelchair in this class,” Peiman said.

Read more about JackDrive joining Embry-Riddle’s Research Park and to learn more about the JackDrive Wheelchair, including videos, go to http://www.jackdrivemobility.com/.




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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the world’s largest, oldest and most comprehensive institution specializing in aviation, aerospace, engineering and related degree programs. A fully accredited university, Embry-Riddle is also a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. A nonprofit, independent institution, Embry-Riddle offers more than 100 associate, baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. The university educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through its Worldwide Campus with more than 135 locations in the United States, Europe and Asia, and through online programs. For more information, visit erau.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.