This year as part of World Cerebral Palsy Day, a competition called Change My Life in One Minute asked entrants to invent something that could make a significant difference to someone living with a disability. The students at the University of Virginia did just that, and won the competition with their innovative new solar powered wheelchair.
The design was inspired by convertible car roofs. Two solar panels are held up above the rider by metal beams, providing not only shade, but also, according to the wheelchair’s creators, a source of power that will allow the wheelchair to run indefinitely. However, in order to run indefinitely the rider can only go at one mile per hour. At five miles per hour, the wheelchair can run for 4.5 hours, which is still a longer range than a typical powered wheelchair. The wheelchair even provides a USB port so the rider can charge his or her portable devices while traveling.
The students were awarded a cash prize of $20,000 to use toward perfecting their design.
But even though this is a great new innovation, it’s not the first solar powered wheelchair design. Back in 2013, a team of Greek scientists invented a solar powered wheelchair that allows people with mobility disabilities to swim in the Greek sea. And in 2010, inventor Haidar Taleb set the Guinness World Record for longest distance covered in one day with a solar powered wheelchair by traveling over 80 miles from Masdar City to Sharjah. Then, a month later he upped the stakes and rode over 200 miles, going from Fujairah to Abu Dhabi.