Life in a wheelchair can sometimes be challenging, especially when it comes to moving around. Sam Lew, an undergraduate at Brigham Young University, bumped into this harsh reality about six months ago.
Lew was engaged in normal activities on campus when a woman in a wheelchair asked for his help to open a door. This hit him like a ton of bricks as he pondered over the difficulties that students with similar disabilities face on a daily basis.
Rather than just empathizing with them, Lew decided to do something about it.
A member of the University’s Crocker Innovation Fellowship, which is an interdisciplinary program that lasts for a year and lays emphasis on developing teamwork, innovation, and entrepreneurship know-how, Lew consulted with his five colleagues regarding his plan.
Following some R & D, they decided to completely deviate their focus on developing a relatively better way for individuals in wheelchairs to pass through entrance ways and set up a company called Piero to carry out the task. For those unaware, Piero was Leonardo da Vinci’s middle name.
Making the world more accessible for people with physical disabilities is the ultimate goal of the company, says Piero co-founder, Connor McLeod.
Bearing this objective in mind, the company achieved a whopping $10,000 in the CommonBond Social Impact Award competition, which is managed by a financial technology firm known as CommonBond.
CommonBond facilitates refinancing and educational loans for the students in collaboration with Pencils of Promise.
The team comprises six students, each hailing from a different discipline. For instance, Lew is studying industrial design, while McLeod is a computer science student. Spilling the beans about what really ties them together, Lew said, "Our common thread is our interest in entrepreneurship and creating a social impact."
Initially, things didn't seem to go the way the team planned and they had no idea about how to utilize their energies. Lew shared his experience with his colleagues and as a result, they decided to have a thorough conversation with the wheelchair user he had helped. The in-depth chat gave them their idea, Lew said.
The device developed by them attaches to the motor located on an automated door that identifies blue tooth signals from a wheelchair user's mobile phone. Its one-of-a-kind design allows the device to be retrofitted on to already existing door openers.
In order to make that happen, they need to acquire a building's Bluetooth ID, which would be available with its facilities manager. Alternatively, users can provide an ID via the company's official website.
Then, an aptly retrofitted door will be made passable once it identifies that signal. According to McLeod, if a large number of doors are adjusted to accommodate the device, there is a possibility that it could become an industry standard.
The team recently launched a pilot in order to give their product a trial run in a local university. Moreover, by setting their sight on wheelchair users in higher education, they have completed their first step.
The team intends to diversify into an array of other products and eventually foray into various markets including government buildings, hospital, and bank.
There's one more semester to go in the Crocker Fellowship program. One of the members of the team is a sophomore, and there are a couple of juniors as well, while three of them are rising seniors.
(Image Credit: lena1790 / Pixabay)