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Engineers To Develop Wheelchair To Help Paralympic Athlete Climb Kilimanjaro

by Institution of Mechanical Engineers

Kilimanjaro Challenge Credit: Airbus/ Pablo Cabellos

Kilimanjaro Challenge
Credit: Airbus/ Pablo Cabellos

A group of members from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ Spanish Group, in collaboration with Airbus, Altran, the Hospital Clínico San Carlos in Madrid, Speedpig and OpticaRoma, are developing and manufacturing a unique, carbon fibre, all-road wheelchair to assist a Paralympic athlete climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

The “Kilimanjaro Challenge” will take place in September when a group of 12 people, including the Paralympic athlete (who is yet to be confirmed) will set out on a twelve-day journey along the Marangu Route to Kilimanjaro.

The engineers are being challenged to design and build a human-powered vehicle to help a disabled athlete reach the top of Kilimanjaro, at almost 6,000 metres above sea level. Weighing just 15 kilograms, the chair will be 50% lighter than all-road wheelchairs in the market today.

The project was being launched on 2 June 2015 at the Airbus plant in Illescas, which manufactures carbon fibre aeronautical components and has contributed materials to the project as well as the know-how of its engineers.

Manuel Santaolalla, Institution of Mechanical Engineers spokesman and one of the key members of the organizing committee, said:

“Ground-breaking technology has come together with humanitarian work for this challenge and illustrates the Institution’s commitment to improve the world through engineering.”

Illescas Presentation Kilimanjaro Challenge September 2015 Courtesy: Imeche.org

Illescas Presentation Kilimanjaro Challenge September 2015
Courtesy: Imeche.org

Dr Helen Meese, Head of Engineering in Society at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, said:

“The Institution is very proud to be sponsoring this project, which is set to be a huge psychological, physical and engineering challenge. We hope that the development of this mountain wheelchair will help illustrate how engineering really is helping to improve the world we live in.”

The project began in response to the need to create a wheelchair capable of coping with all types of rough terrain, even the mighty Kilimanjaro volcano. By marrying innovation and engineering, the idea was to create something that would be of benefit to the world as well as give people with different abilities an opportunity to achieve challenges usually tackled by elite professionals.

The expedition, which will follow the Marangu route, is scheduled to take place from 3 to 15 September (reaching the peak on the 10th). The team will consist of an athlete who will be accompanied by three doctors from the Hospital Clínico San Carlos in Madrid, five Airbus engineers (and Institution members), a member of Altran and two guides.

Teresa Busto, Head of the Airbus Illescas plant said: “This is the first time in history that a chair with these specifications has been built. I am very proud it has been our plant in Illescas and our employees who have volunteered and shown solidarity with this project.”

Alfonso Martínez, General Manager of Altran Spain said: “For a company like Altran, this project is a clear example of our commitment to innovation and to society. We have applied all our expertise in the field of aeronautical engineering to this social responsibility project.”

Reprinted with permission of Institution of Mechanical Engineers

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