Surfing can be difficult for beginners, but for wheelchair users, getting to and from the beach can be even more challenging.
Cal Poly and AmpSurf teamed up to create an all-terrain, beachgoing wheelchair to make surfing more accessible for people with disabilities.
“It looks like a mini tank,” explained AmpSurf founder Dana Cummings, but it’s a mini tank helping out in a big way.
“Everyone wants their independence. It doesn’t matter who you are. When you’re in a wheelchair, you lose some of that independence,” Cummings said.
So AmpSurf and the Cal Poly engineering program came together to make a self-propelling, all-terrain wheelchair to allow people with disabilities to get to the water, surf and get out of the water, all while being completely independent.
“When we bring folks to the beach in their wheelchairs, they usually have a ton of people helping them. This gives some independence back to those surfers,” Cummings said.
Four Cal Poly engineering students, including industrial engineering senior, Lauren Knott, have worked on the self-driving wheelchair for the past nine months as their senior project.
“It’s really making a difference for people. People with disabilities are able to go surfing and experience surfing as a form of therapy and as a form of fun. We felt like doing a project like this was really going to make a difference,” Knott said.
The all-terrain wheelchair is able to get down to the water, allow surfers to unload their board, and with a smart phone, they can do the rest.
“They can click a button that will send the wheelchair back up the beach and park to wait for them while they surf. When they’re done surfing, they click another button, and the wheelchair comes back and picks them up,” Knott said.
It’s not completely finished, but the road doesn’t stop here.
“Proof of concept, and it’s going to be continued to be worked on next year. We’re really excited to see where it goes,” Knott said.