What happens when mechanical engineering students at MIT use biomechanics to build a better off-road wheelchair? They create the most versatile all terrain wheelchair on the market today.
Creation of the Freedom All Terrain Wheelchair
When the GRIT team first dreamed up the Freedom Chair, they were undergraduate students at MIT presented with a challenge: how to create a better wheelchair design for outdoor use in rural areas where sidewalks and pavement were far from the status quo.
They spent years rigorously engineering a solution: a lever drivetrain – built from bicycle parts – that minimizes wasted energy and maximizes the efficiency of each movement.
The Freedom Chair’s patented lever drivetrain is an elegant solution that amplifies the force required for movement, so it’s easier to ride on rough terrain. Instead of a complicated gear system, Freedom Chair riders can get more or less leverage (like changing gears on a bike) simply by moving their hands higher or lower on the chair’s levers.
“Traditional push rim chairs are only 15% effective – there’s a lot of wasted energy and they require the use of small muscles. The Freedom Chair’s lever system uses big muscles instead, so there’s less strain on the shoulders,” explains Mario Bollini, CTO.
After creating the initial design, the designers spent the next five years creating prototype after prototype, continuously getting feedback from wheelchair riders to perfect the design.
It’s not just the patented easy-push levers that make the Freedom Chair so effective: it was thoughtfully designed in every way.
First things first: The Freedom Chair’s tripod-inspired three wheel frame increases stability. “From an engineering perspective, triangles are the most stable shape. This is reflected in the tripod configuration, which keeps all wheels in contact with the ground,” explains Bollini.
Another crucial design feature? Portability. “We’d seen other outdoor chairs, but after talking to wheelchair users we heard over and over again that they were too hard to transport. That’s why we designed the Freedom Chair as an all terrain wheelchair that disassembles without any tools to fit in the trunk of a small car.”
Because all of the moving components on the the Freedom Chair are standard bike parts, “It’s easy to swap out components and customize them. With the Freedom Chair you can go to any bike shop and they will know what to do,” says Tish Scolnik, CEO.
The most amazing thing about the Freedom Chair? The “go anywhere chair” is less than half the price of similar all terrain equipment on the market, all while being manufactured right here in the United States.
Now that GRIT has launched the Freedom Chair, they’re working hard to get the word out. Their latest undertaking? Trailblazers, a GRIT Freedom Chair Ambassador program that is currently accepting applications. Chosen ambassadors will receive a free Freedom Chair for 12 months and have the opportunity to give design feedback and test new products before they’re available to the general public.
Applications are due February 17th and you can apply here.
The GRIT Freedom Chair is the most versatile chair on the market, designed from the ground up to handle any terrain. From trails to grass to snow, the Freedom Chair is built for you to push yourself. Born out of research at MIT, the Freedom Chair’s patented easy-push levers reduce shoulder strain and put you in control of your mobility. Moving parts are composed of standard bicycle parts, so it’s easy to customize or repair at your local bike shop. Ready to hit the trails? Learn more about the GRIT Freedom Chair at www.gogrit.us.
More Fundraising Help from Wheel:Life
In this book, you’ll review 10 brainstorming ideas for different types of fundraiser events to benefit an individual with a disability who needs assistance for medical equipment, physical rehabilitation, adaptive sports equipment or daily medical needs.
Throughout the book, author Lisa Wells shares real-life examples and success stories from her interactions with disability advocates, non-profit supporters and Wheel:Life members throughout a healthcare marketing career that spans more than 20 years on three continents.
10 Fundraising Ideas to Help People with Disabilities features interviews from:
• Paralympian Bert Burns on how he raised support to begin his career in wheelchair racing
• Project Walk Atlanta participant Leslie Ostrander on how she raised money for additional rehab
• The founders of 100 Songs for Kids on their annual music event to benefit children’s medical charities
• Rolling Inspiration creator Chris Salas on how he lined up sponsors for his SCI peer support group
and power soccer team
• The creators of Hunter’s Torch Daylily Garden, a fundraising resource for a child with special needs.
• The Independence Fund – a little known source of financial support for disabled US veterans.