SP.784 Wheelchair Design in Developing Countries

Spring 2007

Man sitting in a three-wheeled chair, holding the hand crank component.
Course instructor Amos Winter works on a hand-cranked tricycle wheelchair, or handcycle, with a user. (Photo courtesy of Amos Winter.)

Course Highlights

The related resources page includes videos of the manufacturing process and demonstrations for different wheelchair and handcycle designs.

Course Description

This class will give students the chance to better the lives of others by improving wheelchairs and tricycles made in the developing world. According to the United States Agency for International Development, 20 million people in developing countries require wheelchairs, and the United Nations Development Programme estimates below 1% of the need in Africa is being met by local production. Lectures will focus on understanding local factors, such as operating environments, social stigmas against the disabled, and manufacturing constraints, then applying sound scientific/engineering knowledge to develop appropriate technical solutions. Multidisciplinary student teams will conduct term-long projects on topics such as hardware design, manufacturing optimization, biomechanics modeling, and business plan development. Theory will further be connected to real-world implementation during guest lectures by MIT faculty, Third World community partners, and U.S. wheelchair organizations. Funded summer fellowships to implement class projects into African wheelchair workshops will be offered to at least six students.

This class is made possible by an MIT Alumni Sponsored Funding Opportunities grant with additional support from the MIT Public Service Center and the Edgerton Center.

Special Features

Technical Requirements

Special software is required to use some of the files in this course: .mp4, .rm, .xls.

Donate Now


Mr. Amos G. Winter, V
Ms. Amy Smith


Undergraduate / Graduate