LifeScape, SDSU partner on new winter powerchair

Published: Dec. 29, 2021 at 8:43 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A unique partnership to tell you about tonight involving LifeScape and engineering students at South Dakota State University.

For the better part of a year, those students have been at work; designing and then building a prototype powerchair that can handle a lot of what Old Man Winter can throw our way.

There’s an old phrase that says necessity is the mother of invention. In this case, the necessity is making sure folks in wheelchairs can get through the occasional snow and ice that ends up here. The invention? That was left to a group of SDSU engineering students like Spencer Brandsrud.

“Three or four months out of the year depending on how much it snows these people can be stuck within a one-block radius of their houses,” said Spencer Brandsrud.

Bransrud as his fellow engineering students were tasked by LifeScape to design and build a kind of super powerchair that could make its way through several inches of snow and ice with no problem.

Arlen Klamm is LifeScape’s Assistant Technology Coordinator. “During the Wintertime they have a very difficult time getting around.”

So the SDSU students went to work. They got the project last January, worked on it until Summer break, and then picked up right back where they left off when classes resumed.

A normal powerchair can do....pretty good.

“OK we can get through about three inches of snow. We can get up a hill with a little bit of snow on it but any more than that....that’s all it can handle,” said Spencer Brandsrud.

They wanted to at least double that and design a chair that could make it through six inches of snow.

That has been tried previously by different entities and it just hasn’t worked out.

“They’ve all been really large. something that would never fit on a sidewalk or even in an urban area,” said Arlen Klamm.

So the new design had to be smaller. something that someone could actually use to get to and from their home through the snow of a South Dakota winter.

“Intersections that may be where the snow is piled up from snow plows and things like that,” said Spencer Brandsrud.

What the engineering students came up with is smaller and sleeker and stronger than previous designs.

This is the only one in existence right now but hopefully, it’s not the last.

“It’s a big deal to have a chair that you’re able to get off-road again and have more clearance to get over some of those obstacles,” said Dylan Lesselyoung.

Dylan Lesselyoung is confined to a wheelchair. He tells us an invention like is a game-changer for his quality of life and will allow him to be involved in more of his favorite activities more often.

“I’m just getting back into outdoors and hunting myself so that’s been a big hurdle to come across,” said Dylan Lesselyoung.

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