Posted May 25th 2011 at 1:12 pm by
in Transportation

A Wheelchair for Young People in Guatemala


This prototype chair was built at MIT and is in Guatemala now. Photo by Kristen Railey.

My name is Paul Lazarescu and I’ve just finished my sophomore year at MIT, where I study Mechanical Engineering. I’m spending this summer in Antigua, Guatemala, where I will be working with Transitions Foundation to design and manufacture a wheelchair for active users.

During Wheelchair Design in Developing Countries, a class I took this semester, my team and I have worked on the design of a sports/hybrid wheelchair for developing countries. Twenty-one is the average age of those getting their first wheelchair in Guatemala, so there is a need for a wheelchair that can be used in everyday life but is also designed specifically with an active user in mind.

Working with one of my classmates, Rachel Dias Carlson, I plan to implement our design for a hybrid wheelchair in Antigua. By the end of the summer, we hope to have not only a working, tested, and finalized product, but also a manufacturing process that will allow Transitions to produce more of these chairs.

While we have finished our preliminary design and prototype for an active everyday chair, we have a few ideas for improvements and also we need to test the chair under local conditions. Our chair weighs 27 pounds at the moment, which is great compared to the 42-pound model they currently use in Guatemala. This chair includes a removable backrest, to transform from an everyday chair into an active chair, but we still need to perfect the attachment and removal process. We also want to make our chair more customizable, with the ability to move the center of gravity forward or backwards.

I think the main concern we have is limited time. Although we are not going to be in Guatemala for a long period of time, we hope to at least finish the design of the chair, and, if there is time, work on the manufacturing processes as well.

I’m very excited for my trip, and I can’t wait to get started working on the chair with Transitions!

Post by Paul Lazarescu.

This project is supported by the MIT Public Service Center.

One response to “A Wheelchair for Young People in Guatemala”

  1. Alison Hynd says:

    Great to see your first post, Paul! I’m looking forward to hearing more and seeing your photos.