Introduction: Evinco - Overcoming Challenges in Paralympic Wheelchair Racing
Hello everyone, we are Team Evinco from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign. We worked on this project in conjunction with Professor Vishal Sachdev in his Digital Making class. Our team is composed of two Business majors and an Industrial Design major. Our mentor was Arielle Rausin who is a Paralympic wheelchair racer and CEO of Ingenium .
Step 1: Understanding the Sport
The first thing we had to do for this project was to learn more about Paralympic wheelchair racing, the equipment and the challenges athletes face.
We visited the team here at the University of Illinois one morning during their practice. The first thing we learned about was the hand ring the athlete's use and the glove. The ring is shown in the first picture (it is the smaller black circle screwed to the wheel). The glove is from Arielle's company and is shown in the second picture. The video shows an athlete practicing to help others who aren't familiar with the sport understand the process.
The first thing that was helpful to learn was that the hand ring is re-gripped about every 3 months. The ring is unscrewed from the wheel and a tire tubing from a bike is placed around the ring. Contact cement is used to attach the tubing and it is heat activated (a heat gun has to be used to pull the tubing off). It is about a 4 hour process to change the grip and it has to dry for a day. Elisa asked if there was a company that changed the grips and we were all shocked to find that there was none. All the athletes have to learn to change the grip themselves and some of them will even pay their other team members to do it for them.
Also, when an athlete is racing in bad weather conditions the grip on the hand ring becomes slippery. This causes many athletes to slip and bruise under their arms. Not only is this painful, but an athlete can prepare for a race and be at the peak of their physical fitness however, because of the weather it will throw their entire performance off.
Therefore, we saw an opportunity to improve the process of wrapping the hand ring and improve an athlete's grip during difficult weather conditions.
Step 2: Brainstorming
Our next step was brainstorming different solutions! The ideas that we decided on first were to create a piece that can attach to the glove to help athletes in the rain. Second, we want to experiment with printing either the entire glove or parts of the glove with TPU filament to create a more flexible glove. Next, we are considering trying to create a C shaped cover that can snap onto the ring and can have increased grip for when racing in the rain. Finally, we would try to connect the ring with the glove somehow and great a grove/lock system to increase grip. This idea is what we said was most effective however, we are worried it wouldn't necessarily be super feasible.
After a second brainstorming session and feedback from our users, we considered making a fabric cover or water resistant cover for on top of the current bike tire. We also considered different ways to attach the cover including snaps, zipper, hooks and more.
Step 3: Prototyping
We then started prototyping our design idea. To prototype, you first need to gather your materials.
- 2-3 Hand rings (unscrewed from the wheel)
- We used both a hand ring covered with tire and one that didn't have a covering on it
- Variety of waterproof materials to make a cover
- We chose to order a yoga mat and bath mat
- We also borrowed Nylon cloth from another group and used corduroy
We first experimented with creating the covers for on top of the tubing. We ended up realizing that our materials were too weak and would be worn down too fast during a race. Also, the materials ripped easily and the snap enclosures ended up ripping the yoga mat and bath mat. Therefore, we ended up gluing a lot of the materials directly on the ring and testing different techniques of how to wrap the materials.
We also used one section of the aluminum hand ring and painted 3 coats of the plasti-dip on it! We found that the plasti dip was the best idea and could greatly improve the process as well as help create a better grip during bad weather conditions.
We met with a material science professor and we also learned that in order to create the best grip we should use the same type of rubber on both the ring and the glove.
Step 4: Final Prototype
For our final prototype, we decided to use the spray plasti-dip on both the hand ring and the glove. We did three coats onto the aluminum hand ring and the glove. However, during our testing both wore down very fast. There was one section of the handring that we had painted three coats of plasti-dip before and used 3 coats of spray on top. This was the only section that held up. Therefore, our final recommendation is to try 3 coats of the plasti-dip and then 3 coats of the plast-dip spray on top.