Team of graduating ASU students develops new type of wheelchair

May 23, 2013

Four newly-minted ASU graduates have created a new type of wheelchair that could add ease and convenience to the lives of people with disabilities. It’s based on a simple idea, but the concept didn’t occur to the students until they each tried getting around campus in a wheelchair for a day.

“It’s not until you spend a day in a wheelchair that you realize it is an extension of you as a person,” says Christopher Miranda, who just graduated in biomedical engineering. “Your height has been reduced, and you’re always looking up at people and trying to reach things, like the credit card slot on a vending machine, or a shelf in a store, or a counter in a coffee shop.” Download Full Image

Peter Georgiou, a May graduate in supply chain management, says he didn’t realize how important it was to be able to speak eye-to-eye with another person until he could no longer do it. He felt a sense of social inequity as others looked down to speak with him or avoided looking at him entirely.

Miranda, Georgiou and two others have developed an elevating wheelchair that raises its seat by 10 inches, through pneumatic gas springs that are similar to those in an office chair. Their team created the prototype this year through the InnovationSpace program, a multidisciplinary product development course that places senior-level students in business, industrial design, engineering and graphic design on a team and asks them to create a product with market value that serves a societal need.

InnovationSpace is an entrepreneurial joint venture among the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and W. P. Carey School of Business.

The team has been chosen as finalists in the Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, which provides funding, office space and training for students to explore their innovations. They hope to bring their wheelchair, called UP, to market next year.

There are “standing wheelchairs” on the market, but the chairs are bulky, heavy and expensive, costing about $10,000, says Georgiou. They require a person to lean back and crank the seat forward. This new chair allows a person to press a button to lift or lower the seat, and it will sell for about $3,500.

Also on the team are Andrew Lai and Rachel Bone, who just graduated in industrial design and graphic design, respectively. The students’ varied backgrounds and abilities allowed the team to approach the problem in different ways.

They will produce the wheelchair in different color and customization options, with coordinating T-shirts, backpacks and hats, to give it a brand identity. Bone has also produced an attractive video to market the product on their website.

Georgiou credits Sidnee Peck, ASU director of entrepreneurial initiatives in the W. P. Carey School, for giving them practical advice, and Prasad Boradkar, director of InnovationSpace in the Herberger Institute, for inspiring them.

“Dr. Boradkar is very engaged and active, and he loves what he does,” says Georgiou. “He has a lot of insight and knowledge. A lot of our great ideas came from him.”

Georgiou, who graduated cum laude, grew up in Scottsdale and applied only to ASU because of the reputation of the Carey School: “It was ASU or bust,” he says.

Lai grew up in Taiwan and chose ASU for its industrial design program, though he also was accepted to Art Center College of Design and Pratt Institute of Art in New York, as well as Ohio State University and UCLA.

Bone, who is from Glendale, Ariz. and graduated summa cum laude, says she enrolled at ASU because it has the best graphic design program in Arizona. Miranda grew up in Nogales, Ariz. and graduated cum laude. He will enter ASU’s master’s program in biomedical engineering next fall.

Georgiou says a year ago he knew next to nothing about wheelchairs. Now he hopes their product might  lead to broad innovations in the wheelchair industry.

“This year has been a blast and I’ve grown a lot as a person, learning about other fields and finding out how the real world works,” says Georgiou. “Engineers and designers look at things totally differently, and they have different ways to tackle problems. It’s been a great learning experience.”

For more information on their project, go to

Kittrie awarded MacArthur Foundation grant

May 23, 2013

Professor Orde Kittrie has been awarded a $185,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation for a project titled, “Combating Criminal Involvement in Nuclear Trafficking.” The grant is shared between Kittrie and Professor Louise Shelley of the George Mason University School of Public Policy, who is the co-principal investigator.

The project will analyze the past, present and potential future role of non-ideological criminals, including corrupt officials, in the trafficking of nuclear material and of dual-use nuclear equipment and technology. Kittrie and Shelley will develop and disseminate recommendations for deterring, detecting and disrupting the criminals’ involvement. Download Full Image

Kittrie is a professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and a non-resident senior fellow with ASU’s McCain Institute for International Leadership. He has extensive experience with nuclear nonproliferation issues, having chaired the Nonproliferation, Arms Control & Disarmament interest group of the American Society of International Law from 2008 to 2012, and also testified before committees of the Senate and House on issues relating to nuclear nonproliferation. Kittrie is a former senior attorney for nuclear affairs at the U.S. Department of State, where he negotiated five nuclear nonproliferation agreements between the United States and Russia and helped negotiate at the United Nations the Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.