In the second half of the STEM curriculum, we work on our Assistive Technology Project. Working in groups of 4, each team engineers a product that assists the needs of someone with a disability. Each group member gets assigned a role and everyone must work together to develop the final product. Our project appeals to individuals with poor arm mobility who have trouble throwing frisbees. We developed an automated, switch-adapted frisbee launcher to meet this need.
Many people, often as a result of injury, disability, or aging, have lost mobility in their limbs and thus rely on a wheelchair to move around. In the United States alone, an estimated 5.5 million adults have poor mobility due to disabilities. Therefore, it is often difficult for those who use wheelchairs as they cannot throw a frisbee autonomously to play with their dog, friends, or family. The goal of this project is to create a wheelchair-mounted projectile-launching device to assist users with poor mobility in throwing frisbees.
We began our design by considering various methods of launching frisbees. While we considered a flywheel approach, we determined that utilizing a flinging side arm approach was optimal. Inspired by a clay pigeon launcher, we began our construction. The main component was the rotating side arm which could be wounded back. Due to the tensioned spring, it flings the frisbee by releasing potential energy. After creating CAD models, we developed our first prototype: the manually-wounded frisbee launcher. However, to make it more accessible for individuals with arm mobility, we automated the mechanism with a motor. The Electronic Control System (ECS) utilized Arduino and numerous electronic components to connect a button to the motor. We 3D printed gears and attached them to the motor, which made the release more reliable. This prototype was successful at launching frisbees a considerable distance. We replaced the 3D-printed gears with metal ones so that the overall system is more durable. Finally, we developed a wheelchair mount with extendable slides, enabling the launcher to be utilized with safety and stability.