NDSU student designs all-in-one wheelchair
Published April 29, 2016
Micah Johnson is a busy NDSU student. The junior balances his mechanical engineering classes with an internship at Bobcat Co. He spends a lot of his free time thinking, designing and building. He’s searching for ideas that can help others.
“I’ve always liked designing new things,” said Johnson. “It’s great to have ideas that you can put to paper and see developed.”
The main project he’s been working on for the past two years is an all-in-one wheelchair called Treker. It’s a track wheelchair that can increase or decrease its track surface area when needed. This means it can be used on rough terrain outside, such as through the snow, and indoors on carpet. The wheelchair can even climb stairs.
The concept hits close to home. Johnson, who was born with muscular dystrophy, uses a wheelchair himself. Current track wheelchairs are too big to fit inside buildings. Users need multiple wheelchairs to do everything Johnson’s new design offers.
The design “allows users to do more and be more independent,” he said.
Johnson is one of many NDSU students creating new knowledge that advances technology. Treker’s design narrows the wheelchair’s tracks for indoor use without damaging floors and widens them to enhance traction outside.
Micah Johnson is working on an innovative wheelchair that increases the independence of the people who use it. He’s an example of how NDSU students create new knowledge that advances technology.
Johnson approached David Wells, NDSU professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering, with his idea. Wells encouraged him to enter NDSU’s Innovation Challenge. He’s competed the last two years with engineering classmates Dan Aubol, Tim Liu, Jared Kugler and Michael Schuh. The competition is open to all NDSU undergraduate and graduate students and empowers them to think, create and present their innovative ideas.
“Micah is an unusually determined young man,” said Wells, who served as Johnson’s adviser during the competition. “He is especially adept at teaching himself the analytical engineering tools needed to design his product.”
This year, Johnson and his team built a fully operational prototype of the wheelchair.
Johnson learned from the experience and is even more confident in his idea. He continues to pursue the all-in-one wheelchair in his spare time and is interested in one day opening his own company.
“I often think of the Winston Churchill quote, ‘Never, never, never give up,’” he said. “My ultimate goal is to help others.”