Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering


Measuring the mechanical and biomechanical efficiency of manual wheelchairs


Dr. Stephen Sprigle


Georgia Tech - College of Architecture


Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 3:00:00 PM


MRDC Building, Room 4211


Bill Wepfer


Many factors influence the extent to which manual wheelchairs meet the needs of individual users. From a mechanical design standpoint, mechanical efficiency is the major factor influencing wheelchair control and maneuverability. On a less efficient wheelchair, an individual will need to exert greater instantaneous force and total effort for accomplishing desired travel, compared with the use of a more efficient wheelchair. Overtime, the accumulation of this greater effort can increase the potential for upper extremity injury. The desire to propel more efficiently has motivated a substantial body of research targeting improved wheelchair propulsion. Studies have typically focused on the biomechanics of manual propulsion and were not designed to characterize wheelchair efficiency. While previous work as resulted in improved clinical knowledge, the field has yet to directly measure the mechanical efficiency of wheelchair designs and wheelchair configurations. Characterizing the mechanical efficiency of a manual wheelchair presents interesting challenges that result from the unique characteristic of wheelchairs and their usage. Maneuvering a manual wheelchair is embodied by changes in momentum manifested by changes in speed and direction. This results in an ever-present shift in internal and external loads and underscores the requirements of assessing energy losses under free-wheeling conditions.


Stephen Sprigle is a biomedical engineer and holds a license in physical therapy. He is a Professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, holding appointments in the Schools of Applied Physiology and Industrial Design and the Graduate Bioengineering Program. Dr. Sprigle directs the Rehabilitation Engineering and Applied Research Lab, an applied disability research lab with interests in the biomechanics of wheelchair seating and posture, pressure ulcer prevention, standardized wheelchair and cushion testing and assistive technology design.


Refreshments will be served.