Innovative wheelchair wins design competition

October 2, 2018

Getting Back on Track competition intended to encourage innovation and raise awareness of the day-to-day challenges facing people with spinal cord injuries

London South Bank University student’s innovative wheelchair design wins £3,000 prize money, plus £2,000 for the university

Today the winner of law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp’s inaugural student design competition, ‘Getting Back on Track’ has been announced.

Kristen Tapping, 36, a second year product design student at London South Bank University produced the winning design – an innovative wheelchair, ‘Moveo’, which separates the wheel from the pushing rail by using a spur gear, meaning that the user does not have to touch the wheel. This mechanism consequently reduces the force needed and allows users to push backwards to move forward – exerting less force and effort than a normal wheelchair. Kristen wins £3,000 prize money, plus £2,000 for her university.

This wheelchair was designed especially for people with a spinal cord injury and makes moving easy through gear reduction, lightweight yet high strength materials, and carefully designed to give the user more grip. With comfort in mind, intelligent textiles also help to regulate the users’ body temperature.

The purpose of the competition was for UK-based university students to design a product aimed at improving the lives of people with a spinal cord injury. Bolt Burdon Kemp, which Innovative wheelchair wins design competitionacts for people with a spinal cord injury and helps them get their lives back on track, was looking for a design which was both unique and practical, and which really considered the needs of those with a spinal cord injury.

Kristen’s design was judged the winner by a panel of experts including Raquel Siganporia, head of the spinal injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, Dr Ross Head, Associate Professor at the University of Wales TSD Swansea and Product Design Manager of Cerebra Innovation Centre and Ian Hosking from Wheelchair Rugby Experience. 

Commenting on the winning design, Raquel Siganporia, head of the spinal injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, said:

“I was really impressed with a great number of the entries, but Kristen’s showed real understanding of the needs of people with a spinal cord injury. For many people with a spinal cord injury, their wheelchair is the most essential piece of equipment they use every day. To recognise the design’s shortcomings and come up with an innovative and viable alternative is no mean feat.

“In my role I see lots of people who have suffered life-changing spinal cord injuries – be it from an accident or as a result of clinical negligence.  In these instances, my client needs to adjust to their injury, their new mobility needs and get back to their ‘new normal’ as soon as possible – innovations like Kristen’s Moveo can really help.”

Kristen Tapping said: 

“I am thrilled to have won this competition, it has opened my eyes to new areas design. Once I have graduated and finished my placement in Spain, I hope to design new products – which this competition has inspired me to do.

“I had the intention coming into this competition of doing anything but a wheelchair, partly because so many designers have had a go, I wasn’t sure what I could add. But after seeing horrendous looking wheelchairs and trying one out myself, I decided to see what I could come up with. 

“I have come to understand that the day-to-day problems facing people with spinal cord injuries, often their inability to use their hands, properly regulate their body temperature, lack of upper body strength, and overall lowered immune system, makes them different from the typical wheelchair buying market – and was first inspired by trying to separate the wheel from the rail, to make sure users hands don’t get dirty.  While I am not able to address every single issue that comes with the injury, I designed this wheelchair to merge functionality and aesthetics, whilst also facilitating the users’ daily routine.”

This is the first competition Bolt Burdon Kemp has run with universities across the UK and the take-up has been positive. Kristen’s course leader, Robin Jones, Acting Head of Mechanical Engineering and Design at London Southbank University said: 

“This competition encouraged students to think about how they could help tackle a very real and practical problem, whilst also getting them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes. Kristen was ambitious in thinking about how to redesign the wheelchair, but her winning entry shows some really innovative, as well as practical thinking.

“I am so pleased a student from London Southbank University has won this prize and thank Bolt Burdon Kemp for this opportunity.”


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