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Motorize a manual wheelchair with this adaptable electronic system

Arduino TeamMay 15th, 2022

Motorized wheelchairs can be very expensive, and for those who are unable to afford them, getting around the house can become a challenge. This is what inspired Wesley Gardner from element14 Presents to design a series of wheelchair modifications that can improve a person’s mobility. 

Gardner began by coming up with a few parts in CAD for the battery mount, an electronics enclosure, and a whole host of clamps for attaching steel tubing to the chair. Next, he added a pair of crossmembers below the wheelchair to secure the 12V lead-acid battery in place. Three more tubes were attached vertically to the back as a way to hold the stepper motors against the wheels which rotate them via friction.

Controlling the stepper motors was done with the aid of two L298N full H-bridge motor drivers, and in turn, they were each connected to a separate Arduino Uno that generates the correct sequence of steps. A single joystick mounted on the wheelchair’s armrest sends signals to both microcontrollers that dictate which direction the wheels should turn. And finally, a basic 12V float charger can be attached using a three-pin XLR connector for easily charging the battery.

To see this project in action and to view more details, check out Gardner’s video below.