The "Welle" wheelchair was developed in the Product Design Course as part of the bachelor degree for Industrial Design Engineering in the Costa Rica Institute of Technology, in order to help the mobilization of patients with obesity and overweight conditions around the hospital.
Workers at medical centers suffer from back pain caused by their daily job when transporting patients with obesity and overweight problems throughout the medical center. The high workload and the weight used to lift patients compromised the physical integrity of caregivers, doctors and nurses alike, not to mention the comfort of patients. The infrastructure of hospitals does not adapt to the physical characteristics of this kind of patients.
Coming up with a solution
It was necessary to do in-field research in order to determine the characteristics of the product according to the patient needs. The team conducted user interviews in two hospitals in Costa Rica. Thereafter, the sketching and ideation process in the project was crucial to determine the product design.
Another important part of the process was to do research on the anthropometric and biomechanic components of the design. It was really important to ensure that the dimensions of the wheelchair where going to provide a better experience to the patients as well as the caregivers. In order to define those components the team investigated on rates of obesity in Costa Rica and the percentiles that represent the physical dimensions of overweight and obese people.
My Role in this project was to analyze the users´ needs in order to develop an adequate solution for both, the patients and the hospital’s workers. I was in charge of the user research process, developing and conducting several user interviews. Thereafter I documented the results for the ideation phase of the project.
The team then received this data with highly-structured information on how to design a special wheelchair, with the recommended materials, dimensions and visual aesthetics to respond to the user’s needs.
I also participated in the sketching and brainstorming phase of the project, the anthropometric and biomechanics research as well as some of the 3D modeling of the product in the “Rhinoceros” software.
The final result was a chair with the right dimensions and components for people with obesity problems. The features of the chair ensure the comfort and physical integrity of the patient, as well as the nurses and doctors that have to move them.
This project is an example of Human Centered Design, one of the main focuses of my career path.
Verónica Alfaro, Antonio Solano, Valeria Torres
Mentoring: Mario González
Design Engineering BA, 2013, TEC