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How do you build a spring loaded baseball bat for a wheel chair?

My 4 year old is wheel chair bound. He is too weak to hold a bat and swing it..

So I want to attach a spring loaded baseball bat to his wheel chair, and all he does is hit a button to swing the bat. The bat would reload manually or ideally automatically.

The same concept would work to 'kick' a soccer ball if we just attach the 'tool' lower on the wheelchair.

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If you want to tinker further I'd heartily recommend using a clay pigeon thrower like this one: http://www.dickssportinggoods.com/product/index.jsp?productId=3905665&010.

It already has the full 180 degree swing, a sturdy metal frame, a spring loading mechanism, and a triggered release. Just try out a few in your local sporting goods stores to find one with enough oomph. You can find automatically reloading ones too for a bit more money.

If you want to avoid modifying the wheelchair, you could have some good fun with something like this: http://www.outdoorgearbarn.com/p-5685-do-by56-single-backyrd-34-cock-trap.aspx#.UOIlmXdCLkI

Cheers,
James Schlitt
gluckc (author) 4 years ago
You guys are great!

Please check out the solution my wife made for our son.
http://jenmadeit.com/solutions/ (scroll down to baseball bat video)

Based on your ideas this is our initial solution.
I'm sure we'll continue to advance this out.

But again: Thanks so much for being willing to share your ideas and help us out!
Great work! Wow
wapatterson4 years ago
I am assumong at 4 years old we are talking about T-ball maybe?

I would build a mount for the wheelchair arms. Two Metal posts rising up from each outside corner. On the right I would attach the bat so it could pivot. (you could even angle the end to give it an upward angle.

The left post would be anchored firmly and Taller (longer?) than the right. I would use a pool-noodle to cushion it. (this will stop the bat's outward swing and avoid braining him.

For movement I'd get a screen-door spring at the hard-ware store and attach one end to the bat and one end to the Left post.

To Reload and "arm" the bat I would attach a strap to the end of the bat and let him hold that. (the farther out it is, the less work he has to do to hold it.)

To Reload, he could pull the strap, or if it's long enough- back up the wheel-chair over it and let the chair do the work.

Its not perfect, but it's a start and hopefully someone can come up with a "reload" mechanism for it.

Hope this helps!
rickharris4 years ago
You don't say how much mobility your son has so it is hard to design without knowing a little more.

Can he hold things

Does he have shoulder mobility

Does he have upper body mobility

If you watched the para Olympics you will have seen various athletes with a wide variety of disabilities competing - including wheel chair rugby, archery and many others.
gluckc (author)  rickharris4 years ago
Great ideas everyone! Thanks for your willingness to brainstorm.

He has Congenital Muscular Dystrophy.

That means weak muscle strength over-all with limited walking and it all slowly gets worse over time.

He can hold and slightly throw a wiffle ball (can't lift arm above shoulders easily.

He holds a wiffle bat but must choke up very high on it, otherwise the bat is too heavy. He can swing it somewhat (combo of the ball being in the right place, but he does move the bat to swing and the ball bounces off)

he can turn his torso and shoulders (as much as possible in a wheelchair)

For more context here is a sample of a customized wheelchair a friend built for him that he uses outside.

http://http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNmKTpEwEFE
I can foresee other problem because it isn't just about swinging the bat you have to be able to aim and align with the ball - that's a much harder engineering problem especially mounted on a relatively small platform like a wheel chair.

How about inventing your own game

http://www.london2012.com/paralympics/boccia/

for example can be played by even the severely disabled and is very competitive .

On a similar line skittles can be played - Or I guess 10 pin bowling if you can develop a way to jack the ball onto a ramp.

Many moos ago there was a TV game here called the golden shot where a cross bow was mounted on a stand (it was controlled by a blindfold cameraman) but it could be remotely controlled with a small joystick.
I feel for your problem but like Kiteman said that carries a lot of risk. Since your son is only 4 years old instead of a real bat, look at the Wiffelball bats and balls. They are light and made of plastic. Even as a "normal" kid growing up my friends and I would play with these in the backyard for hours. I'm sure it would be easyer for your son to hold, or if not, to attach the bat to the chair and "pushed" / swung by your son. A simple bolt thru the bat as the piviot point and maybe a handle extension on a 90 degree angle from the bat. I think it's more important for him to hit the ball himself than useing something to "homerun" with.

I just re-read what I wrote and it sounds cold but it's meant in the best of ways.
Kiteman4 years ago
I'd be nervous of fixing a spring that powerful to a chair for a child - to my mind, the risk of catastrophic failure is too high (but, my welding skills aren't up to much).

I'd be more inclined to extend the length of the bat (by inserting a rod or bar in the end), and fastening that to a hinge on the chair, then fitting a linear actuator to push the lever at the flick of a switch.
bwrussell4 years ago
You could use a flat torsion spring, sometimes called flat coil springs, and a ratcheting system with either a mechanical or electrical trigger on the ratchet release. You would need to pay special attention to the stops so that there is no way it comes around and strikes him. To make the reload automatic you could install a motor to the ratchet and a second button to rewind the system.