Salim Nasser, now of NASA, has created a way for wheelchair users to "row" themselves along both efficiently and safely
Nasser's system, known as the Rowheel, was created to replace the largly inefficient bio-mechanical process currently used by manual wheelchair users. While 75% of those in wheelchairs use a manual version, the "push" method of locomotion can put strain on small arm and back muscles, leading to not only injury but a more inefficient ride.
In response to this conundrum Nasser, who is in a wheelchair himself, designed the Rowheel system. By using a set of sun and planetary gears laid between the standard chair wheel and a second, outer-mounted ring, Nasser was able to take "pulling" motion and translate it into to pushing forward motion.
Pushing: the safer alternative to pulling.
By transferring standard wheelchair push to new wheelchair pull, users would feel the strain in their upper back, biceps and posterior detoids, strong muscle groups that would both increase power and endurance while lowering the chance of injury that comes from pushing with anterior deltoids and triceps.
Nasser's system can be mounted to any standard wheelchair without modification and he envisions a commercial application being created out of carbon fiber to both lower the weight and make the process of set-up and take-down for transport as seamless as possible.
Recently, the concept won the "Create the Future" design contest run by the publishers of NASA Tech Briefs magazine, along with the $20,000 grand prize.
This design has great potential for the wheelchair bound, but will have competition from other powered models and lever-focused adaptations.
Still, we're pulling for him.