Category: Lower Extremity Disabilities

Flex Array

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---- PROTOTYPE --------- PURPOSE: To create a prototype of a proportional drive head array for individuals with tetraplegia. The Flex Array is a powered wheelchair controller that is located in a headrest and activated by the movement of the user's head. It is designed to provide an easy user interface and reduce user fatigue, while its universal DB9 connector and low profile design give the user a better mobility experience. The Flex Array consists of a standard industry community board, embedded "C" programming, an ergonomic headrest, fabricated sensor housing, and mounting hardware. The community board and programming process the input from the sensors to direct the movement of the power wheelchair, adjusting for direction and speed. The Flex Array incorporates a thin curved band that forms the base of the headrest in which the sensors are housed, allowing users to drive the wheelchair where they are looking by activating the pressure-sensitive sensors. The basic frame of the device was made from a 0.125-inch thick plastic sheet. The plastic sheet was cut, heated, and molded to fit the curved shape of the array, and a layer of padding with foam backing was adhered to the plastic followed by the sensors. A force amplifier was placed on specific areas of the sensors to focus the user's force while the padding allowed for flexion. The last layer of padding covered the sensors, force amplifiers, wires, and first layer of padding allowing for the sensors to be encased within the material so they would not move or become detached from the community board. Finally, the device's cover was made with a handmade, hypoallergenic fabric. Mounting hardware was created for the Flex Array with existing mounting hardware that is standard for most head drive controls for wheelchairs. The physical head array was designed to accommodate the human head shape. The headrest has a slanted middle section to accommodate the round feature of the skull allowing for the occipital bone to rest on the Flex Array while not actuating a sensor. The user must tilt his or her head back slightly to actuate the sensor and move the power wheelchair forward. As many users' heads may be in different positions/locations when they sit in the chair, a gooseneck design was utilized to ensure that the array could be moved into any position to accommodate the user. The Flex Array was put through a variety of tests, including trials based on ISO 7176-14. AUTHORS: Stratton Haywood, Sanjog KC, Keshab Sapkota, and Daniel Bankard. TITLE: Flex Array (Louisiana Tech University). WEBSITE: RESNA Student Design Competition. REF:


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Flex Array