Motorize a manual wheelchair with this adaptable electronic system
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.