University of Texas at Austin alumnus, Chris Stanford, and electrical and computer engineering undergraduates are working on making exercise fun for wheelchair users. For the past year, Stanford has been partnering with engineering seniors to test his idea for a virtual-reality treadmill for the disabled.

"Not many people realize the special health risks faced by wheelchair users," says Stanford, who has been confined to a wheelchair since 1988. "Everything is more difficult, including eating right and getting enough exercise. Because of this, the incidence of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease is several times the rate of the general population."

Stanford’s solution, called TrekEase, approximates an arcade driving game. Users back a manual wheelchair into a frame, engage the flywheel for resistance, and start the driving software.

"When Chris approached me last year about using [TrekEase] as one of our senior design projects, I was enthusiastic," says UT-ECE professor Jon Valvano. "It’s an interesting engineering challenge. He came in with a mechanical system that had already been vetted for safety." Students added software and sensors to create an interactive the experience.

Users can control speed and direction. A new group of students is continuing the project this semester. They plan to enhance the existing design so the system detects tilt—making flight simulation possible—and to work on the packaging so it will be affordable and easily reproducible.

Click here to view a video of the student project, and visit the TrekEase Web site for more information.

The Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin is a top-10 program.

[Source: Medical News Today]