Center for Community Engagement

San Francisco: Whirlwind Student Research and Design has Global Impact

San Francisco

The Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at San Francisco State University provides multiple platforms for students and faculty to participate in civic engagement and leadership development opportunities. One of which is Whirlwind Wheelchair International, a non-profit social enterprise that is dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities in the developing world while also providing SFSU engineering students opportunities to participate in projects that reach local and international communities.

In October 2011, Whirlwind Wheelchairs initiated a collaboration with the San Francisco State University chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME@SFSU), a student organization dedicated to promoting the objectives of mechanical engineers on campus. Known as the ASME Trike Project, students were entrusted with constructing and testing a prototype hand-powered tricycle based on Whirlwind's basic design. The project called for students to wield, fabricate, and contribute to the design process in addition to developing testing methods and establishing a baseline of performance. Unlike other projects ASME@SFSU has worked on, the hand-powered front-wheel drive tricycle will be market ready within the next few years. The success of this project will impact the quality of life for people worldwide.

"The team of undergraduate students is learning valuable skills to help their eventual careers in engineering," says club president Nic Celeste, "while seeing first-hand how engineering and design can help make the world a better place for those with limited mobility." The current prototype* utilizes a retro-direct gearing mechanism to provide the user variable mechanical advantage without needing to run cables or have a derailleur, and the Cantilever style front end allows the trike to operate in reverse. The ASME Trike Project is overseen by Whirlwind product designer Aaron Wieler, and Matt McCambridge, Whirlwind's Product Development Manager, who provides hands-on participation.
*as of the date this article was written

Find out more about service learning and community engagement at
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View campus service-learning projects involving assistive technologies:
CSU Los Angeles
CSU Los Angeles

Under the direction of Dr. Samuel Landsberger, Cal State LA's rehabilitation engineering students are weaving together engineering design with biomechanics, kinesiology and physiology to create numerous solutions for rehabilitation and everyday living for disabled individuals.

San Francisco State University
San Francisco State University

Whirlwind Wheelchair International is a non-profit social enterprise based out of the Institute for Civic and Community Engagement at San Francisco State University dedicated to improving the lives of people with disabilities in the developing world. Whirlwind has established partnerships with various student organizations to promote the availability of economic and sustainable wheelchairs that are designed based on feedback from future users.

Sonoma State University
Sonoma State University

The action of throwing or kicking a ball is an enjoyable part of childhood, but for children with disabilities, participating in group games and playground activities can be challenging. Students in Dr. Farid Farahmand's Introduction to Engineering 110 class are given the assignment of developing ways to make playground fun accessible for all children.