Degree Name

BS in Electrical Engineering


Electrical Engineering Department


Tina Smilkstein


We geared this project towards assisting an individual with limited[1] motor function to operate a wheelchair. The product targets individuals who find use of a joystick is ineffective or painful. We focused our design on the wheelchair bought from Adaptive Driving Systems (Driving, 2013); but ultimately we would like to field a final product capable of applying to any electric wheelchair. Our goal: a person to operate the electric wheelchair using sensors that transmit a translation of an individual’s hand movement through a wireless transmission to a microcontroller installed on the wheel chair that then controls the wheelchair’s movement. A bonus of this design is the operator does not have to sit in the wheel chair to operate it, (thereby giving the operator remote control of the chair) allowing them to call the chair to their person from across the room.

We designed the primary sensing mechanism to be as nonintrusive as possible. We used a compact sensor and minimal other components that all would comfortably attach to the arm. A future design goal is to outfit this circuitry with waterproof packaging, therefore eliminating the risks of damaging the device or harming the person during daily activities in kitchen or bathroom facilities. Another safety measure that we include in our design is an automatic stop feature that—when triggered—will disengage the wheelchair operation and the wheelchair will remain on but inoperable until the emergency stop is disengaged (similar to a car in park). The switch circuitry will be implemented as a dead-man switch like mechanism and prevent the chair from moving if the switch is not active. We estimate that our design costs about $200 which by our research is less than half the price of any other alternative systems on the market. The basic hardware of this system includes Xbee radios, Xbee shields, an Arduino board, two DACs, external AAA battery power supply, and an ArduIMU + V3. Our current prototype is not exceptionally visually appealing but we anticipate that, the final product could be fabricated in an aesthetically appealing glove design for the user by utilizing flexible circuit or wearable circuit technology, making our product far more desirable to customers than other systems currently available on the market.

[1] Limited in this case would not include total paralysis; the operator would need some motion capability of their own arms.