Design of a Robotic System to Measure Propulsion Work of Over-ground Wheelchair Maneuvers
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A wheelchair-propelling robot has been developed to measure the efficiency of manual wheelchairs. The use of a robot has certain advantages compared to the use of human operators with respect to repeatability of measurements and the ability to compare many more wheelchair configurations than possible with human operators. Its design and implementation required significant engineering and validation of hardware and control systems. The robot can propel a wheelchair according to pre-programmed accelerations and velocities and measures the forces required to achieve these maneuvers. Wheel velocities were within 0.1 m/s of programmed values and coefficients of variation (CV) < 2%. Torque measurements were also repeatable with CV <10%. By determining the propulsion torque required to propel the wheelchair through a series of canonical maneuvers, task-dependent input work for various wheelchairs and configurations can be compared. This metric would serve to quantify the combined inertial and frictional resistance of the mechanical system.