On a Roll for Change

Wheelchairs don’t require driver’s licenses or permits, but repeatedly using one the wrong way could result in injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or rotator cuff tears. Associate Professor Brooke Slavens is helping to develop a geared wheelchair that could reduce these types of injuries.

To accomplish this, Slavens has partnered with IntelliWheels, makers of a geared wheel system that would make using a wheelchair similar to riding a 10-speed bike. “The idea is that it would make it much easier for people to use and push, with less energy demands and hopefully fewer muscle demands,” she says. “Generous support from IntelliWheels is helping us make it easier for people to use wheelchairs.”

Slavens works directly with people of all ages, including veterans, who are
wheelchair users. She collaborates not only with pediatricians but also with
doctors at the Milwaukee VA Medical Center. “We always team up with a
physician to help provide that clinical drive and insight to know that all the
work we’re doing is going to be applied to make an important impact and
change, not just engineer to engineer, but to be able to take what we’re doing
and provide it to someone in need.”

Marissa Siebel-Siero, co-founder of IntelliWheels, explains how important her company’s collaboration with UWM’s College of Health Sciences is. “Dr. Slavens’ work is part of a critical step in IntelliWheels’ innovation process. Innovation is only valuable if it truly solves a problem and fits the end-users’ needs. Having the opportunity to develop new ideas here at IntelliWheels, test them with Dr. Slavens’ assistance, and refine them with user feedback enables us to bring the right solution to market to serve the greater good.”