MAI graduate develops a walking wheel for wheelchairs

8 June 2021

Daria Stepura, a graduate of the MAI's General Engineering Training Institute No. 9, has developed a mechanism that allows wheelchairs to move smoothly up and down staircases - a walking wheel. This September, she plans to present it at a competition of socially significant projects. Daria expects to receive a grant for her invention and, after the necessary tests, to put the wheel into mass production.

10 years ago, Daria came up with the idea of a wheel to make life easier for people unable to walk.

"It happened that my great-grandmother broke her femoral neck and found herself bedridden," says the MAI graduate. "My sister and I had to carry my grandmother, who weighed 90kg, up the stairs in our arms, so that she could walk or go to the cottage. This is when I started to design a walking wheel that would enable a person to take the wheelchair down the stairs by himself.

After the drafts were made, Daria continued the development in a computer program and finally formed the principle of how the mechanism worked. Six years ago, the invention was patented.

"You can put this wheel on any type of wheelchair and use it on a flat surface," Daria explains. "When you bring the wheelchair to the stairs, you have to turn a small knob on the wheel. Then a part of the wheel will fold and it will take the form of a star with five paddles, which will step down the stairs. The tips of the blades will rest against the ladder and, because of the offset centre of gravity, will help a person to lift the wheelchair without jerking."

The only counterpart to this wheel, according to Daria, is the Japanese prototype with four blades. But the Japanese wheel may not be comfortable on some stairs. A logical question arises as to why there is still no mass production of the Moscow engineer's development?

"The main problem is that investors are afraid to sponsor a project without a prototype, which again requires funds," says Daria. "This vicious circle has been going on since the day the wheel was invented. Now I have managed to save up enough money myself to print a prototype on a 3D printer."

The invention will not only help people with disabilities.

"I'm also developing a version of the wheel for children's prams," Daria shares her plans. "Another configuration could be used on forklifts in the aviation industry, where there are also noticeable problems with ramps. The option of using the wheel in space on the surfaces of other planets is not ruled out."

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