Powered platforms for children

Project  / Project number: MK 20/52  /  Status:

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The challenge

The Redway School is a Milton Keynes school for children and teenagers with physical and learning difficulties. The children often use ‘activity chairs’ (see photo) which support them physically and have an attached tray to allow them to work with activities to enhance motor and cognitive skills. MK Remap was asked if we could help add self-propelled mobility to the ‘activities’ – in other words, could we make some kind of motorised platform that the child could learn to use to propel themselves about the school independently, using simple control buttonsĀ  – ie ‘Forward’, Backward’, ‘Left’, ‘Right’.

Activity chairs are individual for each child, so the motor platform would have to accommodate all chair sizes up to the largest, and have some means to allow the school teachers to get child and chair onto the platform. There would also need to be some form of safety override, and a separate set of controls for moving the platform around when not under control of the child.

The solution

An appeal for a suitable base for the mobile platform was sent out and we were fortunate to be offered two electric wheelchair bases – one a complete, working but scrap chair, and the other a new but obsolete wheelchair chassis kindly donated by Quantum Mobility Ltd.

The wheelchair was dismantled and the drive components and batteries built onto a new frame welded from 25mm diameter steel tubing (see photo)

Tubular chassis for Platform No 1

A plywood platform and sides was then built onto the chassis, and parts of the original wheelchair used to create handles and mounting for the ‘teacher control’, which is the original wheelchair joystick. The sides of the platform can be removed, and form ramps to allow the activity chair t be pushed up onto the platform.

 

Platform no 1

Sides removed to form ramps

A new, separate control system was built for the push button ‘child’ controls. This was mounted under the platform in an aluminium enclosure. Control can be swapped between ‘teacher’ and ‘child’ but changing two large plugs under the rear of the platform.

Platform 1 underside showing controls enclosure and change-over plugs

Platform 1 with chair mounted

The donated wheelchair chassis from Quantum Mobility was far too good to dismantle for parts, so the plywood platform was build directly onto the original chassis (see photo). The second platform is essentially the same as the first, but with slightly different proportions, determined by the length and width of the chassis

 

Platform 2 chassis

Platform 2 in use

For platform 2, Quantum Mobility Ltd supplied a separate set of controls designed to operate with push buttons. The ‘teacher’ and ‘child’ controls were mounted either side of the platform, changing between the two being by swapping plugs under the platform as with platform 1.

The benefit

Teachers at the Redway school report that the platforms are very popular with the children, and are allowing them to experience the joy of independent movement, under their own control. The platforms also help develop their senses of spatial awareness and fine motor control as they navigate around the school using the push buttons on their now mobile activity chairs.

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