HERL and the Mobility Unlimited Challenge

Garrett Grindle

With the final judging on the horizon, the Mobility Unlimited Challenge partners have been visiting all the finalists on their home turf since the beginning of this year. The aim of these visits was to check in on the development of the devices, as well as to help the five finalist teams prepare for the live demonstrations that will be taking place during the Judging Panel in Pittsburgh in July 2020. These trips have taken the MUC partners around the globe, from California, Florida, Scotland, Italy, and finally Japan!

The Judging Panel will be hosted by one of the Challenge partners, the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh. Making up the HERL team working on the Challenge is Director Dr Rory Cooper, Assistant Director for Engineering Dr Garrett Grindle, and Clinical Coordinator Ms Nikitha Deepak. 

Dr Rory Cooper says, “HERL’s role is to improve the lives of people with disabilities through advanced engineering and clinical research, in an atmosphere where everyone can participate and contribute. That’s what’s led us to work on ideas like our MeBot, an enhanced wheelchair that can tackle curbs and difficult terrains, and PneuChair, a compressed air-powered chair that means powered wheelchair users can get in water without fear of destroying batteries. At HERL, we aim to create devices for people with paralysis. But more than that, we make sure people with disabilities are involved in the creation of those devices.

HERL have been providing technical expertise to the programme and have been key to assessing the applications submitted first to the Discovery Award, and then to the Main Challenge, where judges selected the final five. They also helped to develop the judging criteria, which the five finalists will be assessed against this year. 

Since the selection of our Finalists, HERL has been offering mentoring and support to the teams in the development of their devices and will also be part of the trips visiting the finalists to provide them with on-site mentoring and support. Stay tuned for more updates on the Mobility Unlimited Challenge journey!